The 16 most destructive hurricanes in US history

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Flickr/NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, has started slamming some Caribbean islands as a category 5 storm.

Irma’s path suggests it could hit Florida over the weekend, and Florida Governor Rick Scott has told people to “prepare for the worst.”

The storm is the latest in an already catastrophic hurricane season, which lasts from June to the end of November for the Atlantic Ocean. It follows Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Texas including Houston last week and caused damage estimated to be worth more than $100 billion.

The US has seen plenty of catastrophic and costly storms throughout its history, with single events causing billions of dollars in damage. Here’s a look at some of the most devastating, costly storms ever to hit the US.


Hurricane Opal, 1995: $5.1 billion

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Reuters

In 1995, Hurricane Opal devastated the Florida panhandle before hitting Alabama and Tennessee. The storm caused $5.1 billion worth of damage.


Hurricane Isabel, 2003: $5.3 billion

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Reuters

Hurricane Isabel, the costliest hurricane of the 2003 season, made landfall in North Carolina, impacting much of the Outer Banks. It caused $5.3 billion in damages.


Hurricane Floyd, 1999: $6.9 billion

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Damage and flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
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Reuters

Hurricane Floyd was a catastrophic storm because of the rain it brought. The downpours caused extreme flooding from North Carolina on up the East Coast as the Category 2 storm traveled north.


Hurricane Hugo, 1989: $7.1 billion

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Getty Images

Hurricane Hugo made landfall as a Category 4 storm in South Carolina. It caused 21 deaths in the US and resulted in $7.1 billion of damage. At the time, it was the costliest storm in US history.


Hurricane Jeanne, 2004: $7.6 billion

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Reuters

Hurricane Jeanne, which made landfall in Florida, had devastating effects in Haiti. The storm was responsible for more than 1,000 deaths, and overall caused about $7.6 billion in damage.


Tropical Storm Allison, 2001: $9 billion

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Reuters

While not an official hurricane, Allison clocks in as the costliest and deadliest tropical storm in US history, causing 41 deaths and costing more than $9 billion in damage. The storm started over the Gulf of Mexico near Texas, then traveled east, causing floods like the one in Houston, Texas pictured above.


Hurricane Frances, 2004: $9.5 billion

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US President George W Bush tours damage area in Florida from Hurricane Frances.
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Reuters

Making its way west across the Atlantic, Hurricane Frances made landfall in Florida. It led President George W. Bush to declare Florida and parts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina disaster areas. In all, the storm caused about $9.5 billion worth of damage.


Hurricane Rita, 2005: $12 billion

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Katie Guillot, 13, carries her luggage as she makes her way out of Crown Pointe, Louisiana, September 25, 2005. Winds resulting from Hurricane Rita have caused areas like Crown Pointe south of New Orleans to flood.
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REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Just a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, Hurricane Rita formed. The storm brought heavy rainfall to the state again and hit Texas as well, causing $12 billion in damages. It’s often referred to as the “forgotten storm” of the horrific 2005 season.


Hurricane Charley, 2004: $15.1 billion

Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 storm, hit southern Florida in August 2004. Because it changed direction after it was anticipated to hit the Tampa area, it was quite destructive, causing $15.1 billion of damage.


Hurricane Irene, 2011: $7.3 billion

Hurricane Irene made landfall in the US in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm. The storm eventually made its way to New York City, bringing flooding and causing $7.3 billion in damage overall. The image above shows the aftermath of Irene’s catastrophic visit to Puerto Rico.


Hurricane Wilma, 2005: $21 billion

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Reuters

Hurricane Wilma, which broke records as the most intense hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean at the time, had the lowest central pressure of any hurricane in the Atlantic basin. The Category 3 storm was especially damaging to Mexico, Cuba, and Florida.


Hurricane Andrew, 1992: $26.5 million

About 25 years ago, the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew ripped through Florida, leaving millions without power and neighborhoods completely destroyed. The response was so problematic that it led to major changes within the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to USA Today.


Hurricane Ike, 2008: $29.5 billion

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Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

The third costliest storm in US history, with $29.5 billion in damage, occurred in September 2008. Starting off the west coast of Africa, Hurricane Ike made its way over the Caribbean and into the Gulf, making US landfall in Texas as a Category 2 storm.


Hurricane Sandy, 2012: $71.4 billion

With $71.4 billion in damage, Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in US history. The Category 1 storm pummeled New York City, flooding the city’s transportation systems and leaving thousands of homes destroyed.


Hurricane Katrina, 2005: $108 billion

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A family sits on their porch in the Treme area of New Orleans, which lies under several feet of water after Hurricane Katrina hit August 29, 2005.
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REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Hurricane Katrina is arguably the most notorious storm of the 21st century. The storm made landfall as a Category 5 near Miami before striking Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. Katrina was the third deadliest hurricane in US history, with more than 1,200 deaths. It caused $108 billion in damage, making it costliest hurricane the country has ever seen.


Hurricane Harvey, 2017: ~$100 billion.

Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana in late August 2017 as a category 4 storm. Early estimates suggest it caused more than $100 billion worth of damage, which would make it one of the costliest storms in US history. Recovery efforts are still in their early stages, however, so it’s impossible to say yet what the final damage total will be.