Before and After Pictures of the Worst Hurricanes in American History

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Disasters caused by human error — oil spills, bridge collapses, forest fires ignited by a carelessly discarded cigarette — can be devastating, but natural disasters are often even worse. They make us feel helpless in the face of mother nature’s wrath.

Water, in the form of floods and tsunamis, can destroy both life and livelihood. Snow avalanches and mudslides can be an instrument of death and destruction. And earthquakes can wreck cities and their people.

Then there are hurricanes — unpredictable and capricious forces that can assault us in many ways at once, flattening our homes, drowning our crop fields, ripping trees from the ground, robbing us of electricity and drinking water.

A hurricane is a large, swirling tropical storm, with wind speeds than can exceed 150 miles an hour. Either from personal experience or from the visceral imagery provided by national news outlets, most Americans are familiar with the results of these savage tempests: boats overturned and smashed together, cars and trucks picked up and dropped upside down miles away, city streets filled with shattered glass or turned into torrential rivers, rural villages razed into piles of sticks, and so on.

Sometimes, the devastation is so vast that we nearly forget what the places looked like before they were struck by major hurricanes. That is why 24/7 Wall St. has collected before-and-after images depicting the horrific effects of some of the worst hurricanes to strike the United States in recent history. We reviewed from the National Hurricane Center 18 major hurricanes since 2000 that caused at least $3 billion in damages.

Regard the peaceful scenes of life in normal weather, then the aftermaths of these violent superstorms, and remember how punishing the natural world can be.

Click here for before and after pictures of the worst hurricanes in American history.