Which Is Worse: Hurricanes or Tornadoes?

The top 30 most damaging hurricanes in the last 100 years (normalized to account for higher population, wealth and inflation) have each caused more than $2.9 billion in damage. Only the most damaging tornado in the last 100 years — if it hit today — would cause about $2.9 billion in damage: the May 1896 St. Louis tornado, which killed 255 people.


The strongest tornadoes typically occur in late winter or early spring, while hurricane season peaks in the early fall.


Tornadoes happen in all 50 states, but are usually associated with the country's heartland — a 10-state area stretching from Texas to Nebraska. Oklahoma City has been hit more often by tornadoes than any other U.S. city, with a known total now of more than 100 strikes.

More tornadoes have actually touched down in Florida than in Oklahoma, but the ones that strike Florida are generally much weaker systems. The ones that hit Oklahoma have been the most violent in record.

When it comes to hurricanes, Florida and Texas are the states that have suffered the most damage. Based on adjusted losses, 38.0 percent of the direct insured property losses caused by catastrophic hurricanes have occurred in Florida, while 11.1 percent have occurred in Texas. Next to these states, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have all seen significant losses stemming from hurricanes.


NOAA warns that "chasing" tornadoes or hurricanes can be hazardous and should not be undertaken "frivolously." Meteorologists, however, tend to prefer one kind of storm-chasing over another. Mark Lee, for one, a meteorologist with Weatherbug, says tornado-chasing is more fun — and safer.

"A hurricane can wobble and you've then got a half-hour to get out," he said. "It's a little easier to get yourself in trouble than with a tornado.

"In a hurricane," he added, "it's such a large feature that it becomes a big waiting game. There is more of an adrenaline rush chasing a tornado."

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