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From June 1 through Nov. 30 each year, the coastal United States comes under threat from the ferocious winds and floodwaters of the hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Ocean basin.
Five years ago this week, one of the most devastating storms ever to hit U.S. soil, Hurricane Katrina, all but destroyed parts of New Orleans, as the surging ocean waters it pushed to land overtopped the city's protective levees, inundating a vast region, displacing millions of residents and killing more than 1,800 people. [Infographic: Hurricane Katrina History and Numbers]
While Katrina is the most remembered of these swirling storms — its name now infamous — it certainly isn't alone in causing significant death and destruction to areas of the United States. Following are eight of the most destructive storms in recorded U.S. history from 1900 until present day.
1900: The Galveston HurricaneSlide 2 of 17
1900: The Galveston Hurricane
This hurricane was the deadliest weather disaster in U.S. history. It occurred before hurricanes and tropical storms were named and so is known instead by the place it hit.
Early on the evening of Sept. 8, 1900, a powerful Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of more than 130 mph (209 kph), roared ashore at Galveston, Texas.
Storm tides of 8 to 15 feet (2.4 to 4.6 meters) inundated the whole of Galveston Island, as well as other portions of the nearby Texas coast, according to a National Hurricane Center (NHC) historical account. These tides were largely responsible for the 8,000 deaths (estimates range from 6,000 to 12,000) attributed to the storm. The damage to property was estimated at $30 million.
The lack of weather forecasting and detection technology, such as the satellites and radar now used to track hurricanes, meant that there wasn't as much warning for Galveston residents as there would be for those in hurricane-prone areas now.
However, warnings were issued by what was then known as the Weather Bureau. The real problem, according to a NOAA analysis: "Many didn't heed the warnings, preferring instead to watch the huge waves."Slide 3 of 17
1928: San Felipe-Okeechobee HurricaneSlide 4 of 17
1928: San Felipe-Okeechobee Hurricane
This hurricane, the second deadliest in U.S. history, hit near Palm Beach, Fla., on Sept. 16, 1928.
The storm caused extensive destruction. The worst tragedy occurred at inland Lake Okeechobee in Florida, where the hurricane caused a lake surge of 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 m) that inundated the surrounding area. The lake surge was the main cause of the 1,836 deaths in the area.
No reliable wind readings are available from near the landfall area in Florida. However, Palm Beach reported a minimum barometric pressure of 27.43 inches, making this the fourth strongest hurricane of record to hit the United States. (The lower the barometric pressure at the center of a storm the more intense the winds.)Slide 5 of 17
1935: Florida Keys Labor Day HurricaneSlide 6 of 17
1935: Florida Keys Labor Day Hurricane
This hurricane, another that preceded the naming of storms, was small but vicious.
The storm formed to the east of the Bahamas on Aug. 29, 1935, became a hurricane on Sept. 1 and then underwent a rapid intensification before it struck the Florida Keys on Sept. 2 as a whopping Category 5 storm, one of only three Category 5 storms to hit the United States in the 20th century.
No wind measurements were made from the core of the storm, but a pressure of 26.35 inches measured at Long Key, Fla., makes this the most intense hurricane of record to hit the United States.
The combination of winds and tides generated by the storm were responsible for 408 deaths in the Florida Keys, primarily among World War I veterans working in the area. Damage in the United States was estimated at $6 million (1935 USD), which would work out to about $95 million in today's money.Slide 7 of 17
1969: Hurricane CamilleSlide 8 of 17