Deadliest Hurricanes

History, Weather

With hurricane season being in full swing, and having recently passed the 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I thought I would look at some of the deadliest hurricanes in recorded history.  First, a few disclaimers:  these are the deadliest hurricanes – not looking at property damage.  These are all Atlantic hurricanes – sorry Pacific coast, I just don’t love you enough.  Alright, now on to the hurricanes.

San Ciriaco Hurricane – 1899

San Ciriaco Hurricane

Path taken by the San Ciriaco Hurricane

Leaving behind nearly 3,500 dead, the San Ciriaco hurricane was the longest lasting Atlantic hurricane, starting on August 3rd of 1899 and not dissipating until September 4th.  Starting in Guadelope, the San Ciriaco hurricane proceeded to hit Saint Kitts, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and the Outer Banks, with winds topping out at 150mph.

Okeechobee Hurricane – 1928

Okeechobee Hurricane

Path taken by the Okeechobee Hurricane

Beginning on September 6, 1928 and dissipating on September 20th, the Okeechobee Hurricane left 4,000 dead in its wake, with winds topping out at 160mph as it hit Leeward Island, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Florida.  The Okeechobee Hurricane was a Category 5 when it hit Puerto Rico directly.

Newfoundland Hurricane – 1775

The first recorded hurricane in Atlantic Canada, the Newfoundland hurricane, also knows as the Independence Hurricane, struck the Canadian coast from August 29th of 1775 through September 9th.  Most of the 4,000 left dead were English and Irish sailors that drowned.  While no wind speeds are on record (it was 1775), it is believed to be the remnants of a hurricane that also hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Virginia coast line.

Point-a-Pitre Hurricane – 1776

While the intensity and exact track of this hurricane are unknown, it is known to have reached hurricane levels (sustained wind speeds of 75mph), and to have hit Guadeloupe.  The total fatality count for the Point-a-Pitre hurricane sits at about 6,000 dead, with most believed to have been killed on Guadeloupe.

Hurricane Flora – 1963

Hurricane Flora

Path taken by Hurricane Flora

Lasting from September 26, 1963 to the 12th of October, Hurricane Flora reached speeds of 145mph while passing through Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Lesser Antilles leaving between 7,000 and 8,000 dead in its wake.  Hurricane Flora was one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the Bahamas since Galveston more than 60 years earlier.

Hurricane San Zenon

Hurricane San Zenon

Path taken by the Dominican Republic Hurricane of 1930

Also known as the Dominican Republic hurricane, this 1930 storm lasted from August 25, 1930 to September 17th, leaving between 2,000 and 8,000 dead.  With winds topping out at 150mph, Hurricane San Zenon hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and Florida before moving out into the Atlantic and dissipating.

Hurricane Fifi – 1974

Hurricane Fifi

Path taken by Hurricane Fifi

From September 14, 1974 to September 24th, Hurricane Fifi (yes Fifi), reached wind speeds of 110mph while leaving between 8,000 and 10,000 dead as it crossed from Jamaica, Hispanola, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and even Arizona.  Re-designated Hurricane Orlene when it made its way to the Pacific, Fifi has had its name retired from the rotation of names used for hurricanes.

Galveston Hurricane – 1900

Galveston Hurricane

Path taken by the Galveston Hurricane of 1900

With winds of 150mph and a death-toll estimated between 6,000 and 12,000 victims, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was before the current naming system of storms and is referred to by different names in different areas, including the Galveston Hurricane, the Great Galveston Hurricane, the Great 1900 Hurricane, and in certain old documents, the Galveston Flood.  Between August 27, 1900 and September 12th, the Galveston Hurricane devastated the United States.  With an area of affect including:  Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, southern Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas (particularly in Galveston), the Central US, the Great Lakes region, and Atlantic Canada.

The Galveston Hurricane is the worst natural disaster to hit the United States.  To place it in perspective, the Okeechobee Hurricane had an estimated 2,500 victims in the US, and more recently, Hurricane Katrina had approximately 1,800 victims in the US.  The Galveston Hurricane is estimated to have had 6,000 victims in the United States alone, making it the deadliest hurricane in US history.

Hurricane Mitch – 1998

Hurricane Mitch

Path taken by Hurricane Mitch in 1998

With top winds of 180mph, Hurricane Mitch officially left 19,325 victims dead in its wake.  From October 22, 1998 to November 5th, Hurricane Mitch moved from Southern Florida to Central America (particularly Honduras and Nicaragua) and the Yucatan Peninsula.  The worst storm in modern history, the floods caused by Mitch were the leading cause of death.

Great Hurricane of 1780

The deadliest hurricane of the Atlantic.  While we don’t have all the details, we do know that winds topped out at 200mph as it ravaged the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Hispaniola, Bermuda, and possibly even Eastern Florida.  With a direct death toll of 22,000 victims and 27,500 in total attributed to it, the Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Hurricane San Calixto, is far and away the deadliest hurricane, with more victims by itself than any other decade of storms combined.

While not all of these storms would make a top 10 list for deadliest hurricanes ever, they were the deadliest storms in the Atlantic.  Obviously more recent storms have done more property damage while taking fewer lives as we’re more prepared for them, but these storms each did terrible amounts of damage and took thousands of lives.


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