Worst Hurricanes in American History (Part II)

Hurricanes of the Late 1900s

September 7, 2018
Hurricane Carol

Hurricane season is now in session—and continues until November 30. This month we spotlight the most severe late–20th-century hurricanes.

See the worst hurricanes from the first half of the 20th century.

Hurricane Carol

In August 1954, Hurricane Carol caused 72 fatalities and $462 million in damage, making it at the time the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Following the storm, the name “Carol” was retired, becoming the first name to be removed from the naming lists in the Atlantic basin.

While paralleling the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States, the storm produced strong winds and rough seas that caused minor coastal flooding and slight damage to houses in North Carolina; Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Delaware; and New Jersey. The storm then accelerated north-northeastward, making landfall on eastern Long Island and then eastern Connecticut on August 31, with sustained winds estimated at 110 miles per hour.

Strong winds from Carol left about a half-million people on Long Island and in southern New England without power, downed many trees, and brought heavy crop losses.

Hurricane Hazel

In October 1954, Hurricane Hazel was the deadliest and costliest hurricane of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season and the second storm to have its name retired. The storm killed at least 400 people in Haiti before striking the United States as a Category 4 hurricane near the border between North and South Carolina. After causing 95 fatalities in the United States, Hazel consolidated with a cold front in Pennsylvania and then struck Canada as an extratropical storm, raising the death toll by 81 people (mostly in Toronto).

Hurricane Donna

Hitting long and hard in September 1960, Hurricane Donna holds the record for sustaining hurricane status for 17 days, as it had separate landfalls in the Florida Keys; Fort Myers, Florida; Topsail Island, North Carolina; and Long Island, New York, before finally moving through New England. Donna had wind gusts ranging as high as 200 mph, killed 50 people, and caused more than $1 billion in damage. Most notably for me, Donna hit Queens, New York, where I lived, on the first day of school. My third-grade teacher was also named Donna, and I took that coincidence to be an omen for the coming school year.


Photos: The Aftermath of Hurricane Camille

Hurricane Camille

Late in the evening on August 17 in 1969, Hurricane Camille made landfall along the Mississippi Gulf Coast near Waveland. Hurricane Camille was a Category 5 hurricane—one of only THREE Category 5 hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States (with the other two being 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Andrew, which hit the Miami, FL area in 1992). Camille also ranks as the 2nd most intense hurricane (ranked by pressure) to strike the continental US with the 2 hurricanes listed above ranked 1 and 3, respectively. 

Camille eventually killed 143 people near the Gulf Coast. Wind speeds at landfall were estimated at 180 mph, but actual maximum sustained winds will never be known, because the hurricane destroyed all of the wind-recording instruments in the landfall area. At the time, the total damage was around $1.4 billion, but if the same storm struck today, residents would face more than $20 billion in damages. Camille weakened to a tropical depression as it moved from Mississippi into Tennessee. It then brought 10 to as much as 31 inches of rain to West Virginia and Virginia, with most of the deluge occurring within 3 to 5 hours and bringing catastrophic flooding that killed another 113 people.

Hurricane Agnes

Only a Category 1 hurricane at its June 1972 landfall in Apalachicola, Florida, Hurricane Agnes did major damage. Agenes brought devastating floods to Pennsylvania and New York, killing 122 people and causing damage worth about $2.1 billion.

Photo: Hurricane Agnes Damage in Richmond Virginia

Hurricane Hugo

Hurricane Hugo came ashore in September 1989 near Charleston, South Carolina, as a Category 4 hurricane with 135-mph winds, killing 21 people and causing an estimated $7 billion in damage. This made Hugo the third costliest hurricane on record in the United States.

Hurricane Andrew

Hurricane Andrew struck Dade County, Florida, on August 24, 1992, devastating South Florida with 165-mph winds, killing 23, and causing $26.5 billion in damage. Andrew produced a 17-foot storm surge near its landfall point in Florida and then crossed into the Gulf of Mexico before making a second landfall along the central Louisiana coast as a Category 3 hurricane. Andrew then turned northeastward, eventually merging with a frontal system over the mid-Atlantic states.

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Also, don’t miss this year’s hurricane forecast!

Reader Comments

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Hurricane names

Hello. Ever since I was old enough to understand hurricanes and growing up in Antigua in the Caribbean I have always wanted to have a hurricane name after me. (Cerene). Was there ever one by that name. How do I get one name after me!.

hurricane Camille

You have hurricane Camille making landfall August 1, actually it made landfall August 17, 1969.

Hurricane Camille

I and younger brother Jack Breland ,lived in Long Beach,Ms ,We road the storm out in a tree on August 19, 1969 ,Im Gerald Breland. Here is my story, We lived one house off the beach on Nicholson Ave. The storm came in around 6 pm the 19th ,me and my brother got into our families attic, in about an hour water or so house was shaking on foundation , we could smell gas, so we decided to leave our house. The water was about waist deep at that time. We tide a rope together around us,there was no swimming we crawled over trash and debris..broke into our neighbors house and climbed up into there attic .when the front of there house ripped off almost trapping us inside,we climbed out onto the roof and lay flat,the wind then blew the roof off ,we flew though air and landed on trash,got on a underside roof into a tree ,by 1145 pm 19th August 1969,by day light sun came our home gone, a block off the beach...will never forget that night,,thank Go

Hurricane Hugo

Hurricane Hugo made landfall in the U.S. Virgin Islands before the Carolinas. Leveling homes and businesses causing St.Croix to be a disaster area. It took years for the island to recover. Some of the damage done by Hugo was never repaired.

What about Hurricane George and Marilyn? They hit the Caribbean back to back in 1995.

Unsung Hurricanes

The Editors's picture

Hi, Beverly: Excellent points, and thanks for pointing out George and Marilyn! And while they no doubt would have made a fetching (and deserving) couple to add to our list, there just was not enough room at this party to invite everyone to our page. We do appreciate the input, though, and will certainly keep them in mind. Thanks again!


Was their a hurricane name Matthew.and are their ever going to be a hurricane name Cathy.and who names the hurricane.

Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007, and also caused catastrophic damage and a humanitarian crisis in Haiti, as well as widespread devastation in the southeastern United States. Wikipedia
Total fatalities: 603
Dates: Sep 28, 2016 – Oct 10, 2016
Date: September 28, 2016 – October 10, 2016
Damage: $15.09 billion (2016 USD)
Category: Category 5 Hurricane (SSHWS)
Affected areas: North Carolina, South Carolina, Venezuela, Cuba, MORE

Matthew cont.

We experienced it hitting approximately 40 mi north of Wilmington, NC. At that time it was a category 2 hurricane. While it did not affect us horribly, it went inland and flooded central NC causing prolonged and catastrophic flooding.

Hurricane Katrina

I'm feeling a certain type of way about the last comment and it's reply. An article on Hurricane Katrina needs to be written on this site, if it hasn't been already. It is one of the biggest & destructive hurricanes ever recorded. It remains, much apart of 'American History' and that is what Ms. Seal was trying to make mention. 20th century hurricanes? Okay, we got it. Let's move on.


can you folks tell me about hurricane carla

Hurricane Carla

The Editors's picture

In 1961 when Hurricane Carla hit Galveston with 145-mph winds, 50 people lost their lives. In this case, early warnings gave the vast majority of those in harm’s way ample time to evacuate.

Where is the headline picture

Where is the headline picture located? EYC?

Headline Picture

The Editors's picture

The building is the Edgewood Yacht Club, located in Cranston, Rhode Island. The picture was taken during Hurricane Carol, in 1954.


Are you kidding me? Hurricane Betsy caused more suffering and damage than any of them. I can still see the bodies tied to telephone poles today!

Hurricane Betsy

The Editors's picture

You are correct. Hurricane Betsy was oe of the deadliest and costliest storms in U.S. history. Named on August 27, 1965, it looped around the Caribbean north of Puerto Rico before weakening to tropical storm strength. Then, on September 1, Betsy regained hurricane strength and status. On September 7, it moved toward extreme south Florida and the next day made landfall on Key West as a category 3. Heading across the Gulf of Mexico, it grew to category 4, then weakened slightly, making its second landfall, as a category 3, on Grand Isle, Louisiana. Hurricane force winds of 170 mph were recorded as far north as Lafayette, Louisiana, and points north. The storm traveled up the Mississippi (more or less), and caused the river to rise 10 feet at New Orleans and crest at 15 feet in Baton Rouge. Seventy-six people lost their lives and damage estimates run to $1.24 billion. It was the first hurricane to accrue that amount of damage, and the name “Betsy” was retired from the hurricane name list.

Books have been written on this and other storms; this is a brief summary of events.

worst hurricanes of the late 20th century

What about hurricane Anita in the mid To late seventies. It was a very strong cat 5 with winds of 175 to 195.

Worst hurricane.

What about hurricane Katrina? The Mississippi Gulf Coast was destroyed. The storm surge was enormous. Many people lost their lives.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was in 2005, therefore not in the 20th Century. The article was only about hurricanes in the 20th Century.


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