The Worst Tragedy in Every State

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Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

36. Oklahoma
> Tragedy: Oklahoma City Bombing
> Date: April 19, 1995
> Total fatalities: 168
> Other event considered: 1947 Glazier–Higgins–Woodward tornadoes

On the morning of April 19, a bomb planted by anti-government terrorist Timothy McVeigh exploded at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The entire front side of the building was blown away, killing dozens of government employees, as well as a number of children at a daycare center on the second floor of the building. The bombing would remain the worst terrorist attack on American soil until the Sept. 11 attacks.

Source: National Weather Service

37. Oregon
> Tragedy: Heppner Flash Flood of 1903
> Date: June 14, 1903
> Total fatalities: 247+
> Other event considered: Vanport flood

A sudden and deadly flash flood swept through Heppner, Oregon in 1903, overwhelming the normally calm Willow Creek. Reports say that 247 people drowned as waters rose up to 40 feet high and inundated the town. The death toll would have been much higher, but towns in the path of those waters were warned ahead of time and were able to evacuate. It’s unclear exactly how much rain fell during the disaster because the local weather station was destroyed in the flood.

Source: wea00786, Historic NWS Collection

38. Pennsylvania
> Tragedy: The Johnstown Flood
> Date: May 31, 1889
> Total fatalities: 2,209
> Other event considered: Darr Mine Disaster

The Johnstown flood occurred on May 31, 1889, when a dam burst following several days of heavy rain. The size and scope of the flood is difficult to comprehend even today. Up to 2,209 people died, including 99 entire families; bodies were found as far away as Cincinnati, and as late as 1911; flood lines were marked as high as 89 feet above river level; the wave that struck Johnstown was said to be 40 feet high. The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, whose members included industrialists Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, owned the dam but managed to avoid liability, prompting criticism from the press that led to changes in liability laws.

Source: Douglas McFadd / Getty Images

39. Rhode Island
> Tragedy: The Station Nightclub Fire
> Date: February 20, 2003
> Total fatalities: 100
> Other event considered: 1960 Nor’Easter

In 2003, fans poured into The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island for a concert from rock band Great White. Pyrotechnics from the show caused a fire that spread rapidly, killing 100 and injuring more than 200. One of the deadliest accidents in U.S. history, former governor of Rhode Island Don Carcieri said The Station fire is the “state’s worst tragedy.”

Source: American Red Cross

40. South Carolina
> Tragedy: 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane
> Date: August 27, 1893
> Total fatalities: 2,000+
> Other event considered: Charleston Church Shooting

In the late 19th century, the United States lacked the kind of weather prediction and warning system we have today. It was for this reason that South Carolina, and in particular the Sea Islands that form a barrier along the state coastline, were largely taken unawares by a hurricane in late August, 1893. The hurricane swept through the sea islands near Savannah after a sharp turn to the north, leaving over 2,000 dead. Most died by drowning.