Special Report

Before and After Pictures of the Worst Hurricanes in American History

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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 information from the National Hurricane Center on 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

Before

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

After

Source: Louisiana GOHSEP / Wikimedia Commons

15. Isaac
> Damage: $3.02 billion
> Area pictured: Grand Isle, Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 70 mph
> Date of landfall: August 2012

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Before

Source: Andyminicooper / Wikimedia Commons

After

Source: Public Domain via PA3 Robert M. Reed / Wikimedia Commons

14. Dennis
> Damage: $3.20 billion
> Area pictured: Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 120 mph
> Date of landfall: July 2005

Before

Source: studioimagen / iStock

After

Source: au_tiger01 from Mobile, Alabama, United States / Wikimedia Commons

13. Gustav
> Damage: $6.96 billion
> Area pictured: Mississippi
> Max wind speed at landfall: 135 mph
> Date of landfall: August 2008

Before

Source: U.S. Geological Survey / Wikimedia Commons

After

Source: U.S. Geological Survey / Wikimedia Commons

12. Isabel
> Damage: $7.37 billion
> Area pictured: Hatters Island, North Carolina
> Max wind speed at landfall: 90 mph
> Date of landfall: September 2003

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Before

Source: Ken Badgley / iStock

After

Source: gsagi / Getty Images

11. Matthew
> Damage: $10.30 billion
> Area pictured: North Carolina
> Max wind speed at landfall: 130 mph
> Date of landfall: October 2016

Before

Source: Joe Raedle / Newsmakers / Getty Images

After

Source: Harris County Flood Control District

10. Allison
> Damage: $11.82 billion
> Area pictured: Houston, Texas
> Max wind speed at landfall: 45 mph
> Date of landfall: June 2001

Before

Source: FEMA

After

Source: FEMA

9. Irene
> Damage: $14.98 billion
> Area pictured: Pine Island, New York
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph
> Date of landfall: August 2011

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Before

Source: Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau / Getty Images

After

Source: 8632225@N08 / Flickr

8. Charley
> Damage: $21.12 billion
> Area pictured: Key West, Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 130 mph
> Date of landfall: August 2004

Before

Source: NOAA

After

Source: NOAA

7. Rita
> Damage: $23.68 billion
> Area pictured: Holly Beach, Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph
> Date of landfall: September 2005

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Before

Source: Josh Ritchie / Getty Images

After

Source: Averette (Marc Averette) / Wikimedia Commons

6. Wilma
> Damage: $24.32 billion
> Area pictured: Florida Keys
> Max wind speed at landfall: 130 mph
> Date of landfall: October 2005

Before

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

After

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

5. Ivan
> Damage: $27.06 billion
> Area pictured: Pensacola, Florida
> Max wind speed at landfall: 105 mph
> Date of landfall: September 2004

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Before

Source: felixmizioznikov / iStock

After

Source: Matt McClain -Pool / Getty Images

4. Irma
> Damage: $50.00 billion
> Area pictured: Florida Keys
> Max wind speed at landfall: 155 mph
> Date of landfall: September 2017

Before

Source: Kirkikis / Getty Images

After

Source: seclemens / Getty Images

3. Sandy
> Damage: $70.20 billion
> Area pictured: Seaside Heights, New Jersey
> Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph
> Date of landfall: October 2012

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Before

Source: Scott Halleran / Getty Images

After

Source: Win McNamee / Getty Images

2. Harvey
> Damage: $125.00 billion
> Area pictured: Houston, Texas
> Max wind speed at landfall: 115 mph
> Date of landfall: August 2017

Before

Source: Mario Tama / Getty Images

After

Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

1. Katrina
> Damage: $160.00 billion
> Area pictured: New Orleans, Louisiana
> Max wind speed at landfall: 110 mph
> Date of landfall: August 2005

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