The Deadliest Natural Disaster In U.S. History Was A?
When it comes to death and destruction, it probably surprises next to no one that hurricanes top the charts. What may come as a surprise, however, is just how incredibly deadly and destructive the worst hurricane (and natural disaster) in the history of the United States was.
Called the Great Galveston Hurricane, the hurricane was a category 4 storm that ripped through the town of Galveston, Texas in 1900. The storm started as an atmospheric trough off the west coast of Africa in late August. It moved across the ocean, eventually causing turbulent weather in the Caribbean before picking up additional steam in the Gulf of Mexico. When it made landfall in September in Texas, it had a peak wind speed of 145 miles (233 kilometers) per hour and a storm surge 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall—almost twice the elevation of the city.
The storm effectively obliterated the city, destroying over 3,600 homes and killing thousands. By conservative estimates, the storm killed 6,000 and by a more liberal estimation of the fatalities, the count topped out at 12,000. Even by the most conservative estimates, it still remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
What’s particularly remarkable about the storm is how far inland it moved. The Great Galveston Hurricane was so powerful, it swept right up through the United States, slingshotting through the midwest, across the Great Lakes, and right up into Eastern Canada. Even after traveling thousands of miles, the storm was still producing winds up to 50-80 miles (80-125 kilometers) per hour by the time it reached Toronto. In fact, the energy of the storm was still so great that it lead to an estimated 52-232 deaths in Canada, and to this day, the Galveston Hurricane is ranked the 8th deadliest hurricane to affect Canada. It’s a remarkable testament to the power of tropical storms that a storm which made landfall in Texas could still do so much damage over a thousand miles away in another country.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress/Wikimedia.