Modern day natural disasters have become a media circus. Celebrities have apparently become credible sources about the science behind a storm’s severity. Weather channels and news sources throw so much clickbait hype behind a seasonal rain, you would think the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were on your doorstep. To say weather pundits lack credibility would be a gross understatement. But, recent events show that Mother Nature has always possessed the nuclear option. Here are some of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.
It may come as a surprise, but the most devastating hurricane to make landfall occurred more than 100 years ago. Known to Texans as the Great Storm of 1900, the Category 4 hit Galveston with 145 mph winds on Sept. 8. It began as a tropical storm in the Florida Straits and misleading weather reports led Galveston residents to take no significant precautions until less than 24 hours before a 15-foot storm surge washed over the island. Galveston stood only 8 feet above sea level. The death toll has never been fully counted but is estimated between 6,000 and 12,000. Galveston was enjoying a golden age at the time. After the $28 million in property damage losses, investors turned their interest to Houston, which recently suffered Hurricane Harvey devastation.
San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
The 7.8 magnitude quake that struck the San Francisco area on April 18, 1906, shook California as far north as Eureka and as far south as Salinas Valley. Approximately 80 percent of the entire city of San Francisco was destroyed by the impact or the ensuing fires. Approximately 3,000 people lost their lives and it remains the most catastrophic earthquake in American history.
In early September, 1928, Okeechobee picked up force off the coast of the Cape Verde Islands before killing 1,200 people in Guadeloupe as a Category 4. Growing in strength, it hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico with Category 5 winds of 160 mph, leveling nearly 25,000 homes, damaging upwards of 200,000 and leaving 500,000 people homeless. The death toll was a low 312, considering the tremendous force of the severe weather incident. But, Okeechobee unleashed its most potent violence on West Palm Beach Florida where more than 2,500 people drowned in its storm surges. When it was over, more than 4,000 lost their lives and $100 million in property damage was inflicted. The storm got its name from Lake Okeechobee, where its force was estimated to be the most severe.
Cheniere Caminada Hurricane
Although meteorology may be hit or miss, the pre-storm tracking era left communities completely exposed until hurricanes were upon them. Louisiana suffered three deadly hurricanes in 1893. Cheniere Caminada killed approximately 2,000 people. As many are aware, much of the New Orleans city is at or below sea level and storm surges and flooding took the majority of the lives.
One of the more recent catastrophes can be attributed to a perfect storm of Mother Nature’s wrath and human shortcomings, causing the deaths of more than 1,800 people and $100 billion in damage. The 2005 disaster was the fifth Atlantic hurricane of 2005 and it made initial U.S. landfall in Florida. But after resurging its power in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina rocked New Orleans at Category 3 force. Levee failures heavily contributed to flooding that swept people away. Approximately two-thirds of the deaths were attributed to man-made levee failures. More than 80 percent of city and neighboring communities were destroyed.
Heat Wave of 1980
When you think about natural disasters, heat doesn’t usually come to mind. But in 1980, more than 1,700 perished in the severe heat that plagued the southern and central states. In Memphis, Tennessee, temperatures hit 100 degrees or higher for 17 consecutive days and a record high of 108. In Dallas, temperatures topped the century mark 69 times and a record 42 consecutive days with 28 exceeding 105 degrees. The drought damaged more than $20 billion in agriculture.