The Most Destructive Hurricanes of All Time
The last few years have seen some of the most intense storm seasons in recorded history. In fact, research indicates hurricanes have developed three times as fast in the last 30 years.
But which storms have been the strongest in recorded history? To find out the most destructive hurricanes of all time — we've also included typhoons and tropical cyclones on our list. The storms are all destructive, with the main difference being the locations where they developed.
Typhoon Haiphong – 1881
Typhoons are the same as hurricanes; the only difference is they take place in the Pacific Ocean. In 1881, Typhoon Haiphong traveled up through the Gulf of Tonkin and unleashed chaos on Vietnam. Haiphong, the coastal city of Vietnam, saw the most damage.
The Galveston Hurricane – 1900
Known locally as the Great Storm of 1900, the Galveston hurricane of 1900 was the deadliest natural disaster in United States history. Even though it took place more than 100 years ago, the Galveston hurricane was a major storm. The Category 4 storm left behind $20 million in damages — $78 billion when adjusted for inflation.
The Second Galveston Hurricane – 1915
A mere 15 years later, Galveston was once again struck by a Category 4 hurricane. Thankfully, the coastal Texas area was far more prepared. A giant seawall bordering the resort city was built in response to the massive hurricane in 1900.
The Great Miami Hurricane – 1926
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claims this storm is the most damaging U.S. hurricane of all time. The Miami area faced the brunt of the storm's wrath, flooding city streets and destroying the shoreline.
The Lake Okeechobee Hurricane – 1928
Before hitting Lake Okeechobee in Florida, this massive storm tore through the Caribbean. It first hit Guadeloupe, destroying almost every building on the island. After tearing through Puerto Rico, the storm moved on to Florida.
The Florida Keys Labor Day Hurricane – 1935
This Category 5 storm is often considered the strongest U.S. storm in the 20th century due to its record-setting 200-mph winds. It's referred to as the "Labor Day Hurricane" simply because storms weren't named until 1953. .
The Great New England Hurricane – 1938
This northeast storm in 1938 may be the most surprising storm strike in recorded history. The storm was originally on course to strike Florida, but winds carried it north. Forecasters believed it would wash out to sea, but they were very wrong.
Cuba-Florida Hurricane – 1944
The Cuba-Florida Hurricane took place while WWII was in full swing. The Category 3 storm first struck Cuba, killing around 300 people. The Havana harbor saw the most damage, with ships littered across the coastline. The hurricane then made its way toward Florida.
Hurricane Donna – 1960
The first officially named storm to make this list, Hurricane Donna was a Category 4 storm and the fifth largest storm in United States history. It also holds the record for maintaining hurricane status for 17 days. The storm's slow-moving progress resulted in heavy rainfall that massively flooded Florida’s lakes and streams.
Hurricane Camille – 1969
Camille is notable for several reasons. First, it wreaked havoc in the Cayman Islands and Cuba before hitting Mississippi on the U.S. coast. Second, the storm resulted in 256 deaths and more than $1.4 billion in damages. Finally, it sparked the creation of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Cyclone Bhola – 1970
The Bhola cyclone struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the West Bengal area of India. The Category 4 tropical cyclone is the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded. At least 500,000 people died during the storm or afterward as a result of the storm.
Typhoon Nina – 1975
In 1975, Typhoon Nina was the fourth-deadliest tropical cyclone on record. More than 229,000 people died in Taiwan and mainland China. The biggest damage occurred in China after the collapse of the Banqiao Dam. In total, 62 dams collapsed after Typhoon Nina.
Typhoon Tip – 1979
Typhoon Tip was the largest and most intense Pacific typhoon ever recorded. At its largest, Tip was almost half the size of the contiguous United States. The record-setter affected many areas, including the Philippines, Japan, Russia, China and Alaska.
Hurricane Gilbert – 1988
The Category 5 storm devastated the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico in 1988. It was so large it completely covered the island of Jamaica, causing $2.98 billion in property damage — $6.46 billion when adjusted for inflation.
Hurricane Mitch – 1988
Hurricane Mitch brought death and destruction to the island nation of Honduras. The Category 5 hurricane is the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history. More than 11,000 people died in Central America, with more than 7,000 deaths in Honduras alone.
Hurricane Andrew – 1992
Hurricane Andrew was a fast-moving storm with powerful winds. Unlike some other storms, the Category 5 hurricane caused catastrophic destruction from wind power. Debris flew from the storm in south Florida as far as a mile from its starting point.
Odisha Cyclone – 1999
The Odisha Cyclone was the most intense tropical cyclone in the North Indian Ocean. Myanmar, Bangladesh and India were all impacted by the super cyclone's 160 mph winds. The storm hovered over the coastal areas of Odisha for three days, unleashing torrential rainfall.
Hurricane Katrina – 2005
On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States. It was only a Category 3 rated storm at the time, but it landed in a vulnerable area. Levee breaches caused massive floods, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
Hurricane Wilma – 2005
Hurricane Wilma was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic. The storm broke several records related to strength and seasonal activity. It was only the third Category 5 storm to ever develop in the month of October.
Hurricane Ike – 2008
Hurricane Ike was the most intense storm of 2008. Its 15-foot waves battered coastlines from Florida all the way to Texas. Before reaching America, Ike barreled through Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Cuba. It was during its time in the Gulf of Mexico when it swelled in strength.
Typhoon Megi – 2010
Typhoon Megi, or Super Typhoon Juan as it's called in the Philippines, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record. Megi killed 31 people and caused $255.1 million in damages, making it one of the most costly typhoons in the Philippines – but it wasn't done yet.
Hurricane Irene – 2011
A well-defined Atlantic tropical wave brewed the disastrous Hurricane Irene in August 2011. As it continued to gain steam, it made its way through St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. By the time it reached Virginia, the storm had developed into a Category 3 hurricane, peaking at 120 mph.
Hurricane Sandy – 2012
Hurricane Sandy was the most destructive hurricane of 2012. In late October, the storm first moved across Jamaica before growing stronger in the Caribbean Sea. It later tore through Cuba and the Bahamas, continuing to wreak havoc and grow in strength.
Typhoon Haiyan - 2013
Typhoon Haiyan is one of the deadliest typhoons to strike the Philippines, killing at least 6,300 people. In early November 2013, the storm reached a Category 5 level, with winds as strong as 195 mph. The storm also harmed parts of Micronesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and South China.
Typhoon Rammasun - 2014
Typhoon Rammasun was the first Category 5 super typhoon in the South China Sea since 1954. The storm caused devastation across the Philippines, South China and Vietnam in July 2014, a mere eight months after Typhoon Haiyan had wreaked havoc on the Philippines.
Hurricane Patricia - 2015
Hurricane Patricia broke the record for the most intense storm to hit land in the Western Hemisphere. The storm's maximum wind speed topped out at an astonishing 215 mph. More than 10,000 homes were severely damaged near the Mexican city of Manzanillo.
Hurricane Harvey – 2017
Hurricane Harvey is tied with Hurricane Katrina for the title of most expensive storm in American history, causing $125 billion in damages. The cost largely stems from flooding throughout Houston and Southeast Texas. Many regions in the area suffered through 40 inches of rain over the course of just four days.
Hurricane Irma – 2017
Hurricane Irma was the first Category 5 storm to develop in the 2017 season. The storm had winds as strong as 180 mph before making landfall in Cuba and later touching down in Florida. It was the most intense hurricane to strike the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Hurricane Maria – 2017
In September 2017, the Category 5 Hurricane Maria followed Irma and caused widespread devastation in Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It is the worst environmental disaster to strike any of those regions and was the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record.
Hurricane Dorian – 2019
Hurricane Dorian was a long-lived Category 5 storm that destroyed the northwestern part of the Bahamas. As Dorian ripped through the island nation at full power, it slowed its speed dramatically, remaining almost stationary from September 1 to September 3.