The 5 Most Devastating Natural Disasters in US History

May 29th, 2013 by Brian Maiorana

Every year, millions of innocent people suffer the effects of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floors, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. At Good Charity Inc., our Disaster Relief and Aid fund was created to help those victims of natural disaster in dire need of help and assistance.

We are fighting an ongoing battle to raise funds so that we can help as many people as possible. Part of that fight is won by raising awareness of the effects of natural disasters. In this post we want to explore the five most devastating natural disasters in the US to hammer home the point that helping people affected by acts of God is a cause well worth contributing to.

5. Hurricane Katrina (2005)

KatrinaIt seems appropriate that we should begin with the most infamous natural disaster in recent history. hurricane Katrina claimed the lives of 1,836 people and is the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States (with property damage estimated at $84 billion).

The hurricane first touched US soil over southern Florida as a relatively modest Category 1 hurricane, where it caused some deaths and flooding. It then gained strength considerably over the Gulf of Mexico and by the time it hit southeast Louisiana on August 29th it was a Category 3 hurricane.

Although hurricane Katrina caused loss of life and property damage from central Florida all the way across to Texas, the city of New Orleans in Louisiana was worst affected as it suffered a catastrophic failure of its levee system. The rescue effort would be ongoing for many weeks and the effects are still felt in the region, eight years later.

4. The Great October Storm (1893)

Cheniere CaminadaAlthough hurricane Katrina is still fresh in our minds as the most well-known natural disaster to hit the State, Louisiana has endured a catalogue of devastating storms throughout the history of its occupation. One such storm was the Chenière Caminada hurricane, also known as the Great October Storm.

This hurricane hit the island of Chenière Caminada, Louisiana in October 1893 and effectively wiped the community off the map. The Category 4 hurricane caused an estimated 2,000 deaths and resulted in widespread property and crop damage.

There was in fact just one building left standing on the entire island; a testament to nature’s true power over humankind.

3. Okeechobee Hurricane (1928)

OkeechobeeAs of 2010, this hurricane was the only recorded cyclone to hit Puerto Rico at Category 5 strength. It would leave a path of devastation and take over 1,500 lives during its journey through the Caribbean and Bahamas before hitting the US mainland over South Florida.

However, the worst was to come. A storm surge from Lake Okeechobee breached the protective dike surrounding the water mass and flooded an area of South Florida spanning hundreds of square miles. When the disaster was over, the hurricane had claimed over 4,000 people and caused property damage estimated at $1.34 billion in 2013 USD.

2. The San Francisco Earthquake (1906)

San Francisco

Although hurricanes are the most deadly type of natural disasters (not including heat waves), one of the costliest in terms of loss of life and property damage was in fact an earthquake. And although the San Francisco earthquake occurred more than a century ago, it is an event that all Californians (and most Americans) are all too familiar with.

The earthquake struck at 5:12am on Wednesday, April 18th. The result was catastrophic — an estimated 3,000 deaths and property damage that left 80% of San Francisco destroyed. The death toll was as a result of the earthquake itself and devastating fires that broke out across the city and raged for days.

At the time of the disaster, San Francisco was the 9th-largest city in the United States, with a population approaching 500,000. Though the city would be rebuilt quickly, its destruction diverted trade, industry and the human population south to Los Angeles, essentially permanently reshaping the development of the West Coast of the United States.

1. Galveston Hurricane (1900)

GalvestonGalveston is a small island off the south coast of Texas; laid bare to the raw might of any storm that gathers in the Gulf of Mexico. Its precarious positioning was exposed by what is the deadliest hurricane and natural disaster in recorded US history.

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 would cause an estimated 6,000-12,000 deaths as it smashed into the island as a Category 4 hurricane. Although there was some warning of the storm’s approach, there was disagreement amongst meteorologists as to where the hurricane would head, and local residents of Galveston heeded warnings to evacuate.

At the time of the disaster the highest point in the city of Galveston was less than nine feet above sea level. The hurricane created a storm surge in excess of 15 feet which blanketed the entire island. Over 3,600 homes were destroyed and only buildings with the stoutest of construction remained erect.

Today, Galveston is a thriving city with a major cruise port and two universities. An enormous 10 mile seawall acts as a barrier against future storms.

What Disaster Might Be Next?

You will no doubt notice that four of the five disasters above occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, hurricane Katrina is a stark reminder of humankind’s fragility against Mother Nature, even in the modern world.

There will always be natural disasters and local communities will always need help and aid in order to save lives and restore normalcy. That is why we consider our Disaster Relief and Aid fund to be so critical in a time where lives can still be devastated by acts of God.

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