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The Deadliest, Most Destructive Hurricanes Ever

Updated May 20, 2021 2.2m views22 items

Hurricanes can instill fear in the public due to their ability to level entire towns, throwing communities into turmoil. When a hurricane strikes, the lives of people and animals settled along the shores are threatened by powerful winds and strong waters. Some of the strongest hurricanes in history have absolutely devastated thousands of residents. While meteorologists do their best to predict such storms and emergency officials try to encourage prompt evacuation, you can only do so much to prevent loss of life, damage, and other tragedies when a natural disaster strikes. Despite the best efforts of all involved, a storm is simply too unpredictable to manage effectively. The world's biggest hurricanes, those in the highest hurricane categories, will remind you to be thankful for your shelter and loved ones, as our planet is, at times, tremendously dangerous and unexpected weather patterns can suddenly disrupt stability. 

What is the largest hurricane ever recorded? The Great Hurricane of 1780 resulted in over 20,000 lives lost. However, less deadly hurricanes have wrought unspeakable damage to infrastructure, leading to massive displacement, job loss, and economic upheaval. The destruction wrought by the world's most destructive hurricanes is always devastating, but you often see communities come together in the aftermath to rebuild. While always tragic, these types of natural disasters can be a testament to the enduring willpower of people across the globe. So, what's the worst hurricane in history?

To get some sense of the proportion of the damage caused by these storms, here's a look back at the strongest hurricanes ever recorded - ranging from the 1700s to the most recent storms. 

If you're interested in more natural disasters like this list of the worst hurricanes, check out the worst tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and earthquakes in history. 

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  • Hurricane Flora (1963)

    Photo: Shutterstock

    Death Toll: 7,186 - 8,000

    Category: 4

    Areas Affected: Caribbean, Haiti, Cuba

    Hurricane Flora was first identified as a convection - a mild transfer of heat via fluid movement - in September 1963. It eventually morphed into a Tropical Storm and then into a Category 4 hurricane. Flora ravaged the Caribbean, Haiti, and Cuba throughout September and October as it touched down on land, causing over 7,000 deaths during its 17-day run. 

    In addition to causing a sizable death toll, Flora caused major damage to crops and infrastructure. Landslides buried entire towns in Haiti and flooding took out fields of coffee and banana crops. Flooding also caused great damage to crops in Cuba and destroyed much of the country's transportation infrastructure.  

  • Pointe-à-Pitre Bay Hurricane (1776)

    Photo: Shutterstock

    Death Toll: Over 6,000

    Category: Unspecified 

    Areas Affected: Guadeloupe, United States (Louisiana) 

    Due to poor record-keeping, some precise details of this hurricane are unknown. However, historians do know the hurricane struck Guadeloupe on September 6, 1776, and hit Louisiana on September 12. Analysis indicates the winds were around 74 miles per hour.

    At least 6,000 people lost their lives in the storm, and it also struck down about 60% of a large convoy of French and Dutch merchant ships transporting goods to Europe. 

  • Lake Okeechobee Hurricane (1928)

    Photo: Shutterstock

    Death Toll: Over 4,075

    Category: 4

    Areas Affected: Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, the United States (Florida)

    Before touching down in Florida, the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane devastated Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. It landed on Palm Beach County shoreline in Florida and knocked down a dike holding back the waters from Lake Okeechobee. This caused devastating amounts of flooding, leading to widespread loss of life and damage.

  • Newfoundland Hurricane (1775)

    Photo: Shutterstock

    Death Toll: 4,000

    Category: Unspecified 

    Areas Affected: Newfoundland, American colonies 

    One of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes in history, the Newfoundland Hurricane struck the Colony of Newfoundland in September 1775. The Newfoundland Hurricane came alongside a wave of storms which caused devastation and damage for the American colonies. Eventually, the storms turned into a deadly hurricane that struck the eastern coast of Newfoundland.

    Sea levels rose to unprecedented heights and several boats and crews were completely lost in the storm. Many sailors lost their lives in the hurricane.