Is This the Worst Hurricane Season Ever? Here’s How it Compares

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Hurricane season won’t end until Nov. 30, but four major hurricanes — Category 3 or greater — have already churned through the Atlantic. And meteorologists say more are likely on the way, raising a question of how this hurricane season compares to past years.

For an answer, we turned to the National Hurricane Center, which began tracking damage caused by hurricanes in 1900. The figures only reflect fatalities and damage for the mainland U.S., so the following tables don’t capture the full extent of the destruction caused by this year’s storms.

Which hurricane seasons were deadliest for the U.S.?

Hurricane forecasting has vastly improved in the past century, saving countless lives each year. But Harvey and Irma still left a total of 103 people dead in the U.S., making 2017 the 17th deadliest hurricane season since 1900.

The deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history is also the most fatal hurricane to date. In 1900, inaccurate predictions, combined with poor warning systems, left Galveston, Texas vulnerable to a hurricane that killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people.

Twenty-eight years later, an estimated 2,500 people drowned when a Category 4 hurricane caused Lake Okeechobee in Florida to overflow, deluging the surrounding area with 10-to-15-foot floods.

The 10 deadliest hurricane seasons include only one from within the past 50 years: 2005, when Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the levees in New Orleans and inundated the city, killing more than 1,000 people.

Deadliest mainland U.S. hurricane seasons, 1900 to present

Rank Year Major Hurricanes Deaths Damage (billions)
1 1900 Galveston Hurricane, TX 8,000 $ 104.3
2 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, FL 2,500 $ 35.3
3 2005 Katrina, Dennis, Cindy, Ophelia, Rita, Wilma 1,225 $ 211.2
4 1938 Great New England Hurricane, NY, CT, RI, MA 600 $ 41.1
5 1915 Galveston Hurricane, TX, New Orleans Hurricane, LA 550 $ 74.3
6 1957 Audrey 426 $ 4.0
7 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, FL 414 $ 9.2
8 1926 Great Miami Hurricane, FL 408 $ 169.4
9 1909 Velasco Hurricane, TX, Grand Isle Hurricane, LA 406 $ 3.0
10 1906 Fl, SC, MS, FL 298 $ 4.1
11 1919 Florida Keys Hurricane, FL 287 $ 14.4
12 1969 Gerida 256 $ 22.3
13 1955 Connie, Diane, Ione 218 $ 24.4
14 1954 Carol, Edna, Hazel 193 $ 37.5
15 1972 Agnes 122 $ 18.5
16 1916 Major hurricanes in MS, SC, TX, AL 107 $ 7.9
17 2017 Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria 103 $ 290
18 1965 Betsy 75 $ 22.3
19 2012 Sandy, Alberto, Isaac, Debby 72 $ 73.2
20 1960 Donna, Ethel 65 $ 31.5

Which hurricane seasons caused the most damage?

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are expected to cost the U.S. between $ 150 and $ 200 billion in combined property damage, according to Moody’s Analytics. The higher figure would make this season the second costliest to date, just behind 2005, when Hurricanes Katrina, Dennis and Cindy left behind $ 211 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center.

But with a month of peak hurricane season still ahead of us, more storms could place 2017 atop the list of costliest seasons.

All values in the chart below, in billions, are adjusted to reflect inflation and growth in personal wealth and population.

Costliest mainland U.S. hurricane seasons, 1900 to present

Rank Year Major Hurricanes Deaths Damage (billions)
1 2005 Katrina, Dennis, Cindy, Ophelia, Rita, Wilma 1,225 $ 211.2
2 2017 Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria 103 $ 200
3 1926 Great Miami Hurricane, FL 408 $ 169.4
4 1900 Galveston Hurricane, TX 8,000 $ 104.3
5 1915 Galveston Hurricane, TX, New Orleans Hurricane, LA 550 $ 74.3
6 2012 Sandy, Alberto, Isaac, Debby 72 $ 73.2
7 1992 Andrew 24 $ 60.5
8 2004 Alex, Charley, Gaston, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne 60 $ 58.6
9 1944 Major hurricanes in NC, RI, FL 64 $ 54.8
10 1938 Great New England Hurricane, NY, CT, RI, MA 600 $ 41.1
11 1954 Carol, Edna, Hazel 193 $ 37.5
12 2008 Dolly, Gustav, Ike 41 $ 35.9
13 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, FL 2,500 $ 35.3
14 1960 Donna, Ethel 65 $ 31.5
15 1955 Connie, Diane, Ione 218 $ 24.4
16 1965 Betsy 75 $ 22.3
17 1969 Gerida 256 $ 22.3
18 1947 Major Hurricanes in TX, FL, GA 53 $ 20.1
19 1972 Agnes 122 $ 18.5
20 1989 Chantal, Hugo, Jerry 56 $ 17.6


Methodology

Figures are taken from the National Hurricane Center’s report on The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010. Totals for years 2011 through 2016 are compiled from the National Weather Service’s hazard statistics with selected updates from other National Weather Service lists. Economic damage estimates reflect property damage only, not indirect damage like lost productivity or increased fuel prices.

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