Special Report

Most Destructive Hurricanes of All Time

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The 2018 extreme weather season continues to unfold. There have been so far in the United States this year three disaster climate events that left 34 people dead and caused damages exceeding $1 billion.

2017 broke records for frequency of disasters and damage. There were 16 separate billion-dollar or more climate events — including hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Irma — and damage for the year exceeded $300 billion. This year, weather has resulted in long-lasting, if not permanent, economic effects on areas impacted.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the National Hurricane Center’s January 2018 report, “Costliest U.S. Tropical Cyclones.” The government report lists 36 hurricanes that struck the United States between 1900 and 2017 and caused $1 billion or more in damages. We obtained for each hurricane the maximum sustained wind speed at landfall from the NHC’s Atlantic hurricane database (known as HURDAT2).

Click here to see the most destructive hurricanes of all time.

Of climate catastrophes, hurricanes have caused by far the most damage. Damage from hurricanes hitting the U.S. between 1980 and April 6, 2018 totals $862 billion. The cost of an average hurricane is $21.6 billion.

Hurricane Katrina is by far the costliest and most devastating storm in U.S. history. While casualties from hurricanes since 1900 have numbered from a handful of fatalities to deaths in the low hundreds, Katrina resulted in 1,833 deaths. Damage from the storm is estimated at $160 billion, shattering 2017’s second place Harvey, which caused $125 billion in damage.

Coastal states along the Atlantic coast have born the brunt of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history. Florida, for example, was affected by 15 of the 36 most destructive hurricanes. While areas in the southeastern United States like Florida have experienced higher frequencies of hurricanes, the Northeast has not been spared.

In 2011, Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. And the two oldest hurricanes on this list of most destructive hurricanes are the 1938 New England Hurricane and the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane.


36. Elena, 1985
> Damage: $3.00 billion
> Affected area: Mississippi, Alabama, Northwest Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in September, 1985

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35. Isaac, 2012
> Damage: $3.02 billion
> Affected area: Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 70 mph in August, 2012


34. Dennis, 2005
> Damage: $3.20 billion
> Affected area: Northwest Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 120 mph in July, 2005


33. Donna, 1960
> Damage: $3.24 billion
> Affected area: Florida, Eastern United States
> Max wind speed at landfall: 125 mph in September, 1960

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32. Georges, 1998
> Damage: $3.78 billion
> Affected area: Florida, Keys, Mississippi, Alabama
> Max wind speed at landfall: 105 mph in September, 1998


31. Carol, 1954
> Damage: $4.20 billion
> Affected area: Northeast United States
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in August, 1954

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30. Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1944
> Damage: $4.93 billion
> Affected area: Mid-Atlantic
> Max wind speed at landfall: 90 mph in September, 1944

29. New England Hurricane, 1938
> Damage: $5.28 billion
> Affected area: Northeast United States
> Max wind speed at landfall: 105 mph in September, 1938

28. Frederic, 1979
> Damage: $5.71 billion
> Affected area: Alabama, Mississippi
> Max wind speed at landfall: N/A

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27. Celia, 1970
> Damage: $6.03 billion
> Affected area: Texas
> Max wind speed at landfall: N/A

26. Gustav, 2008
> Damage: $6.96 billion
> Affected area: Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 135 mph in August, 2008

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25. Isabel, 2003
> Damage: $7.37 billion
> Affected area: Mid-Atlantic
> Max wind speed at landfall: 90 mph in September, 2003

24. Alicia, 1983
> Damage: $7.47 billion
> Affected area: North, Texas
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in August, 1983

23. Opal, 1995
> Damage: $7.61 billion
> Affected area: Northwest, Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in October, 1995

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22. Diane, 1955
> Damage: $7.63 billion
> Affected area: North Carolina
> Max wind speed at landfall: 60 mph in August, 1955

21. Fran, 1996
> Damage: $7.90 billion
> Affected area: North Carolina
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in September, 1996

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20. Floyd, 1999
> Damage : $9.62 billion
> Affected area: Mid-Atlantic, Northeast U.S.
> Max wind speed at landfall: 110 mph in September, 1999

19. Camille, 1969
> Damage: $9.78 billion
> Affected area: Mississippi, Southeast Louisiana, Virginia
> Max wind speed at landfall: 150 mph in August, 1969

18. Jeanne, 2004
> Damage: $9.90 billion
> Affected area: Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 105 mph in September, 2004

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17. Matthew, 2016
> Damage: $10.30 billion
> Affected area: Southeast, US
> Max wind speed at landfall: 130 mph in October, 2016

16. Betsy, 1965
> Damage: $11.15 billion
> Affected area: Southeast, Florida, Southeast Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: N/A

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15. Allison, 2001
> Damage: $11.82 billion
> Affected area: North, Texas
> Max wind speed at landfall: 45 mph in June, 2001

14. Agnes, 1972
> Damage: $12.52 billion
> Affected area: Florida, Northeast United States
> Max wind speed at landfall: N/A

13. Frances, 2004
> Damage: $12.94 billion
> Affected area: Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 110 mph in September, 2004

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12. Hugo, 1989
> Damage: $14.07 billion
> Affected area: South Carolina
> Max wind speed at landfall: 120 mph in September, 1989

11. Irene, 2011
> Damage: $14.98 billion
> Affected area: Mid-Atlantic, Northeast U.S.
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in August, 2011

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10. Charley, 2004
> Damage: $21.12 billion
> Affected area: Southwest, Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 130 mph in August, 2004

9. Rita, 2005
> Damage: $23.68 billion
> Affected area: Southwest, Louisiana, North Texas
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in September, 2005

8. Wilma, 2005
> Damage: $24.32 billion
> Affected area: South, Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 130 mph in October, 2005

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7. Ivan, 2004
> Damage: $27.06 billion
> Affected area: Alabama, Northwest Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 105 mph in September, 2004

6. Ike, 2008
> Damage: $34.80 billion
> Affected area: Texas, Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 115 mph in September, 2008

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5. Andrew, 1992
> Damage: $47.79 billion
> Affected area: Southeast, Florida, Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 145 mph in August, 1992

4. Irma, 2017
> Damage: $50.00 billion
> Affected area: Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 155 mph in September, 2017

3. Sandy, 2012
> Damage: $70.20 billion
> Affected area: Mid-Atlantic, Northeast United States
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in October, 2012

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2. Harvey, 2017
> Damage: $125.00 billion
> Affected area: Texas, Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 115 mph in August, 2017

1. Katrina, 2005
> Damage: $160.00 billion
> Affected area: Southeast, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi
> Max wind speed at landfall: 110 mph in August, 2005

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