Special Report

Most Powerful Hurricanes of All Time

Evan Comen, Thomas C. Frohlich

At least for residents of the Northern Hemisphere, the approach of summer will provide some relief from the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis currently unfolding. It will bring the end of the flu season, which has strained response efforts to the COVID-19 outbreak, and it will bring more opportunities to be outdoors (while observing safe physical distancing). However, it will also bring the start of the Atlantic hurricane season — a familiar but no less dangerous threat.

For the fifth year in a row, weather experts are predicting a busier than average Atlantic hurricane season in 2020. Last year’s season had 18 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, including the category 5 Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas and threatened the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Some of the most powerful storms in recent years — 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 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 catalysts for some of the worst floods in American history.

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. used data from the NOAA to rank tropical cyclones based on estimated central pressure at time of landfall for all hurricanes between 1851 and 2018.

Click here to see the most powerful hurricanes of all time