The Top 10 Deadliest U.S. Hurricanes

ByABC News
September 15, 2003, 1:43 PM

Sept. 2, 2004 -- Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show the deadliest hurricanes happened prior to 1950, before forecasters began to fully grasp the dangers of flooding, storm surge and other hurricane-related hazards.

Below are the top 10 deadliest hurricanes since 1900, as assessed by NOAA, as well as other hurricanes whose powerful, destructive impact is seared in memory.

Forecasters only began assigning hurricanes female names in 1950, and began alternating male and female names in 1979. Before 1950, fierce storms often came to be known by the names of the areas where they caused the most damage.

The 10 Deadliest Hurricanes

1. Galveston Hurricane, Year: 1900, U.S. Deaths: 6,000-12,000

By the time this storm reached the Texas coast south of Galveston late on Sept. 8, it was a Category 4 hurricane. After landfall, the cyclone turned northward through the Great Plains and then northeast, passing across the Great Lakes, New England and southeastern Canada.

This hurricane was the deadliest weather disaster in U.S. history. Storm tides of eight to 15 feet inundated the whole of Galveston Island, as well as other portions of the nearby Texas coast. 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.

2. San Felipe-Okeechobee Hurricane, Year: 1928, U.S. Deaths: 1,836

This classic Cape Verde hurricane (this refers to ones that develop near the Cape Verde Islands) was first detected over the tropical Atlantic on Sept. 10. It made landfall near Palm Beach, Fla., on Sept. 16 and turned north-northeastward over the Florida Peninsula, a motion that brought the remains of the storm to eastern North Carolina by Sept. 19.

It is estimated to be the fourth-strongest hurricane on record to hit the United States and caused heavy casualties and extensive destruction along its path from the Leeward Islands to Florida. The worst tragedy occurred at inland Lake Okeechobee in Florida, where the hurricane caused a lake surge of six to nine feet that inundated the surrounding area. A total of 1,836 people died in Florida, mainly due to the lake surge. Damage to property was estimated at $25 million.

3. Atlantic-Gulf Hurricane, Year: 1919, U.S. Deaths: 600-900

This fearsome storm was first detected near the Lesser Antilles on Sept. 2. By the time it passed just south of Key West, Fla., it was a large hurricane of Category 4 intensity. A continued west to west-northwestward motion brought the center to the Texas coast south of Corpus Christi as a Category 3 hurricane on Sept. 14.

This storm, estimated to be the third most intense to hit the United States, occurred over the Florida Keys and the central and south Texas coast. A storm surge of up to 12 feet inundated Corpus Christ, Texas, causing major damage to the coastal areas. The death toll was estimated at 600 to 900 people. Of these, more than 500 were lost on 10 ships that either sunk or were reported missing. Damage in the United States was estimated at $22 million.

4. New England Hurricane, Year: 1938, U.S. Deaths: 600

The "Long Island Express" was first detected over the tropical Atlantic on Sept. 13. By the time it landed over Long Island and Connecticut on Sept. 20 it was a Category 3 hurricane.