Costliest Hurricanes of the Century

Hurricanes are the most destructive of all weather systems. While it is possible to predict the path and potential intensity of a hurricane, one can often be taken very much off guard by things that weren’t expected or anticipated.

Here is a look at the costliest hurricanes of the century for the time beginning in 1935. The storms are listed in the order of the estimated amount of the damages.

*The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 –

This was one of the most intense hurricanes ever to make landfall in the U.S. It made landfall as a category 5 hurricane (the first of three category 5 hurricanes to hit the U.S.,)  affecting the Florida Keys, killing between 400 and 600 people (which doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering the population of the Florida Keys at that time was only about 13,000, it is a pretty significant death toll. The $6 million in damage (in 1935) would be equal to $95 billion in 2010. The winds were clocked at 185 mph with this hurricane.

*Hurricane Katrina –

Without question, Hurricane Katrina was the costliest hurricane in U.S. History. The storm made landfall along the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast in August of 2005. The estimated cost of the damage that the storm caused is $200 billion.

*Hurricane Andrew –

Hurricane Andrew made landfall twice – in Florida and Louisiana. The storm lasted from August 24 – August 28, 1992. It hit Florida as a category 4 hurricane, then traveled across the Florida peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico, making a second landfall in Louisiana as a category 3 storm. The estimated cost of damages from Hurricane Andrew was $43,672 billion.

*Hurricane Charley –

Hurricane Charley was a small hurricane by most standards. It hit Florida on August 13, 2004, and the storm only lasted until the next day. What is so remarkable about Hurricane Charley is that such a small storm could cause so much intense damage. The estimated cost of the hurricane’s damage was $15 billion.

*Hurricane Ivan –

Hurricane Ivan made landfall in Gulf Shores Alabama on September 16, 2004. It lasted for four days and traveled across the entire southeastern portion of the United States. It produced more than 100 tornadoes and caused major flooding all across the affected areas. On September 18, 2004, the Delmarva peninsula was hit by the remnants of the storm, after which, it regained speed and traveled down the coast where it became a tropical storm once it entered the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It then made a second landfall as a tropical depression in Louisiana, leaving an estimated total of $14.2 billion in damages.

*Hurricane Hugo –

Hurricane Hugo made landfall on September 22,1989 in Charleston, South Carolina. Making landfall in this beautiful and historic seaport city, Hurricane Hugo was a category 4 storm that caused roughly $12.25 billion in damages.

Hurricane Agnes –

Hurricane Agnes affected the better part of the eastern seaboard of the United States between June 19 -25, 1972. Although the storm only made landfall as a category 1 storm, throughout much of the time from landfall until its dissipation, it dumped huge amounts of rain on the affected areas, even though it was no longer an official hurricane. Nevertheless, Agnes caused an estimated $11.2 billion in damages as it left a path of destruction extending from the Florida panhandle to as far north as New York City.

*Hurricane Betsy –

Hurricane Betsy affected the southeastern parts of Florida and Louisiana between September 7 and 9, 1965. It narrowly missed the classification of a category 5 hurricane when it made landfall in the Florida Keys on September 7. The storm went on to travel through the Gulf of Mexico before making a second landfall in New Orleans on September 9. Betsy dumped so much rain on New Orleans, that as with Hurricane Katrina, the levees were breached, and the result was a severely flooded city.

Betsy was dubbed “Billion Dollar Betsy” because it was the first storm whose total estimated damages topped $1 billion. That is a bit misleading, however, because when the estimated amount of damages is calculated according to the value of the dollar in 2010, that estimate rises to about $10.79 billion. There is no question that by any standard, Betsy was a horrifically costly storm for the affected regions.

*Hurricane Frances  –

Frances made landfall in Florida as a mere category 2 storm, however, the damage was so significant that the estimated total for the small area that was affected was $8.9 billion.

*Hurricane Camille –

Hurricane Camille made landfall as a category 5 storm on August 17, 1969. The storm continued until the 22nd of august, spreading the damage across southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi and all the way north to Virginia. Camille was the second most intense hurricane to ever hit the United States. Unfortunately, the devices that were used to measure wind speeds were destroyed, so no one knows what the actual final wind speeds were. By the time the storm reached Virginia and West Virginia, the storm tides and flash floods that were caused by the remnants of the storm caused an estimated $8.8 billion in damage.

*Hurricane Diane –

Hurricane Diane hit the northeastern seaboard of the United States from Virginia to New York between August 17 and 19, 1955. The interesting thing about Hurricane Diane is that she was preceded by a sister storm named Connie who hit the exact same area a mere five days earlier. The estimated total of damages as a result of both storms was $6.9 billion, most of which was the result of flooding .

Hurricanes can cause a tremendous amount of damage, as is evident  by the damages shown here. It is very hard to know whether the brunt of the damage will be caused by actual winds from the storm, the flooding from storm surges and intense tides, or from flooding from the resulting rains. Thankfully, as much more is known about hurricanes, and predicting them, people can do whatever they can to protect themselves, their lives and property. Those who live in hurricane prone areas do so with the awareness that between June 1 and November 30 of any given year, they never known when or if a hurricane may inflict its power on their homes or communities.


Epic Disasters: The ten costliest hurricanes in the U.S.