The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season is less than two months out, and experts are predicting a less active season with a below average number of storms. While this should come as welcome news, the frequency of tropical cyclones is rarely an indication of how intense the hurricanes may be when they make landfall — that is, how destructive they could be.
Some of the most powerful storms — Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for example — hit during one of the slower hurricane seasons of the past several decades. The strength of a hurricane is difficult to accurately predict, and the most intense storms on record vary heavily by decade, deadliness, and destructiveness.
In addition to high winds, other major risks associated with hurricanes include heavy rainfall, storm surges, and inland flooding. Many of the storms on this list have been the catalyst for some of the worst floods in American history.
Despite the fewer storms predicted this year, hurricanes may be increasing in frequency and intensity because of climate change. According to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, human-caused greenhouse emissions are likely to contribute to increased storm surges, rainfall rates, intensity, and an increase in the global occurrence of tropical cyclones.
To determine the most powerful hurricanes of all time, 24/7 Wall St. ranked tropical cyclones based on estimated central pressure at time of landfall for all hurricanes between 1851 and 2017, using data from the NOAA.