Deadliest Hurricanes in US History

April 24, 2012; 4:57 AM ET
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In this September 1900 file photo, a large part of the city of Galveston, Texas, was reduced to rubble after being hit by a surprise hurricane on Sept. 8, 1900. More than 6,000 people were killed and 10,000 left homeless from the storm, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Hurricane Ike's eye was forecast to strike somewhere near Galveston late Friday, Sept. 12, 2008, or early Saturday, then head inland for Houston. (AP Photo/File)

The top five deadliest hurricanes to impact the U.S. claimed the lives of about 15,200 people and impacted the states of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.

Galveston, Texas
Galveston was impacted by a hurricane that made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Sept. 8, 1900. Winds were estimated to be in excess of 140 mph. The storm surge reached 15.7 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Meteorologists of the era had little knowledge of the behavior of tropical storms. They believed the hurricane would take the usual northeastern track after crossing over southern Florida. The residents of Galveston had little to no warning about the powerful hurricane headed straight for the town, according to Erik Larson, author of Isaac's Storm.

Communication from Florida was cut off as the hurricane's outer bands brought high winds and heavy rain into southern parts of the state. Florida's meteorologists were unable to report the track of the storm to the weather bureau in Washington. Local meteorologists and residents of Galveston had no sign of the storm until hours before the hurricane made landfall.

The storm took the lives of at least 8,000 people, making it the most deadly hurricane in U.S. history.

Lake Okeechobee, Fla.
On Sept. 16, 1928, a Category 4 hurricane with winds as high as 150 mph made landfall in Palm Beach County, Fla., between Jupiter and Boca Raton at 6:15 p.m., NOAA reports.

In this 1928 photograph, a vessel has washed up onto the shores of West Palm Beach, Fla. Photograph courtesy of NOAA.

Waves of up to 20 feet and a storm surge of at least 10 feet covered southern Florida in water. A levee in Lake Okeechobee overflowed and flooded 75 miles of land around the south end of the lake. Thousands of people drowned in several feet of flood water.

Estimates set the number of people killed by the hurricane and flood between 2,500 and 3,000.

Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina made landfall Aug. 29, 2005, in southern Plaquemines Parish, La. Hurricane Katrina weakened from a Category 5 system on Aug. 28 to Category 3 hurricane at the time of landfall.

As Katrina moved onshore, the winds were sustained at approximately 121 mph, according to NOAA.

Hurricane Katrina took the lives of about 1,200 people, making it the third most deadly U.S. hurricane.

Satellite photograph of hurricane Katrina courtesy of NOAA.

Cheniere Caminada Island, La.
On Sunday, Oct. 1, 1893, a Category 4 hurricane hit the islands of Grand Isle and Cheniere Caminada, off the coast of Louisiana. When the storm was over, most of the town of Grand Isle was wiped out, according to NOAA.

There were only four houses and a church still standing in Cheniere Caminada. The people of the town took shelter in the buildings, unable to leave before the storm due to no warning and no bridge to the mainland, according to a 2009 website by students at the Loyola University New Orleans.

When the storm was over, between 1,000 and 2,000 people had lost their lives. The hardest-hit area was Cheniere Caminada Island. Church records, at the time of the hurricane, reported the town population as 1,471. The hurricane had left 779 of the residents dead. The village never recovered.

Sea Islands, South Carolina and Georgia
A Category 3 hurricane hit the small group of islands located off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia on Aug. 27, 1893.

Winds accompanying the storm were reportedly in excess of 115 mph, and the storm surge rose as high as 20 feet or more in some places, according to author Betty Joyce Nash in the article Sea Island Hurricane of 1893.

The hurricane left about 700 people dead in its wake, NOAA reports. Most of the victims were residents of Beaufort County, S.C.


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