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The 20 Worst Hurricanes in World History by Financial Damage

Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas and brought the most devastating flooding in the history of the State. It was a multiple impact storm that seemed to back up, rebuild and take another run at the state. Following right behind the mega storm was hurricane Irene. This massive hurricane headed through the Leeward Islands and took aim on Florida. Although the impacts were not as great as feared, there was still devastation and flooding in the keys and on the mainland.  And finally, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in what is considered to be the region's worst natural disaster in history.  It will be some time before the extent and cost of the damages are fully known for these three storms. We do, however, have the figures in for some of the other major hurricanes in history.

Here are the 20 costliest and most devastating hurricanes in world history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

20. Hurricane Agnes 1972 - Total damage: $2.1 billion

The 1972 hurricane season kicked off the Agnes as the first named storm. On June 18, the storm reached hurricane strength as it traveled over the Gulf of Mexico. When it made Landfall on June 19, it was a category 1 hurricane that achieved wind speeds of 74 mph. the storm continued to move northward and continued to intensify. Within 4 days, Agnes combined with a low-pressure system that brought up to 14 inches of rainwater to the northeastern coast of the United States, with Pennsylvania receiving the highest amounts totaling up to 19 inches in the western parts of the state. Although Agnes was a weak storm in comparison to many of the others, the damage that was caused by flooding was massive. The storm eventually dissipated by June 25, but the severe flooding that occurred from New York to the Carolinas were responsible for 122 deaths. Hurricane Agnes is the twentieth most costly storm that has been recorded in the history of the world.

19. Hurricane Frederic 1979 - Total damage: $2.3 billion

The United States Southern states were put on notice that a powerful hurricane was possibly heading their way. More than 500,000 people were evacuated from the central Gulf Coast area in advance of the event. The hurricane reached Category 3 strength with wind speeds peaking at 145 mph. Frederic made landfall on Sept 12 on Daughin Island, Alabama. Due to the high-speed gusts of the storm, trees were down and structures were destroyed across Mississippi and Alabama. Roads were blocked with debris and power failed, leaving residents without electricity for weeks in some locations. The storm surge of 12 to 15 feet damaged buildings for 80 miles along the coast of Alabama. The mass evacuation that occurred just prior to the storm kept many people safe from harm, saving hundreds of lives, although five people were killed during the event. The loss of property from this storm was catastrophic, causing residents to seek shelter until repairs could be made. In many cases, the insurance settlements took several months. Some people without catastrophic insurance coverage suffered a total loss.

18. Hurricane Dennis 2005 - Total damage: $2.55 billion

Dennis slammed into Cuba on July 8, with wind speeds reaching 145 mph. As the storm hit the island, it briefly weakened, but moved on towards the Gulf of Mexico where is rebuilt to hurricane category 3 strength as it made landfall in western Florida on July 10. Wind speeds of 121 mph were recorded. The hurricane diminished in strength to a tropical storm as it crossed into the southwestern part of Alabama. The storm only dropped between 3-5 inches of rainfall in the affected regions, but the cotton crop in Florida was badly damaged from high winds and pounding rain. Damage was sustained at two United States Air Force bases located in Florida. Three people lost their lives as a result of Dennis, and the cause of these deaths was linked to the improper use of electrical generators.

17. Hurricane Georges 1998 - Total damage: $2.77 billion

Georges was a storm that lasted for 17 days. It wreaked havoc from the Caribbean to the state of Mississippi, making landfall 7 times. It is responsible for 602 deaths, most of them occurring in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. On Sept 25, Georges made landfall in Key West, Florida. It was a category 2 hurricane at the time with wind speeds maxing out at 104 mph. The storm moved through the Gulf of Mexico, maintaining its strength, and making landfall for a second time in the United States, on September 29, striking Alabama with wind gusts as high as 110 mph. Storm surge reached 12 feet in height in the state, and 10 feet in Florida, dumping between 10 and 20 inches of rain in Alabama and Southern Mississippi, causing mass river flooding. Homes were inundated and evacuations were necessary. Significant damage to pecan, cotton and soybean crops were sustained, wiping out entire regions.

16. Hurricane Fran 1996 - Total damage: $4.16 billion

Hurricane Fran struck the coast of North Carolina a Cape Fear, on September 5 as a category 2 hurricane with winds recorded at 115 mph. This was the second major hurricane to make landfall in the state in the 1996 season. The wind gusts picked up after landfall to reach speeds of 137 to create one of the most devastating storms to hit the region. The damages were so severe that the National Weather Service retired the name from the alphabetized list. The storm ravaged from North Carolina with the brunt of the fury touching down there, through South Carolina to Ohio. It also caused problems in Pennsylvania and Maryland. At the time that Fan hit Cape Fear, the state was already reeling from the effects of hurricane Bertha, which barreled through the region with category 2 strength two months prior. The storm surge in North Carolina reached heights of 12 feet, washing away beaches, eroding the coastline and destroying waterfront buildings. Trees were knocked down by trees and power lines were taken down causing power outages for millions of residents. Flooding in Virginia resulted in the closing of roads, the destruction of hundreds of residences and power outages affecting more than 400,000 people. Fran was responsible for 26 deaths, due to falling trees.

15. Hurricane Gustav 2008 - Total damage: $4.62 billion

On August 25, 2008, a tropical storm developed in the Caribbean. It built in strength and reached hurricane proportions, and was named Gustav. As it hurtled towards Louisiana, the region was given evacuation orders. Approximately 1.9 million people were evacuated from the southern portion of the state. the hurricane reached the status of a category 2 hurricane by the tie it made landfall in Louisiana on September 1. The sustained wind speeds were recorded at 110 mph and downed trees and power lines. Homes and other buildings were damaged, and Louisiana and Mississippi were flooded from storm surges reaching up to 12 feet. Rains in the amounts of between 8 and 11 inches fell, inundating neighborhoods with flood waters. Three people lost their lives in the event and multiple families lost their homes.

14. Hurricane Opal 1995 - Total damage: $5.14 billion

Opal was officially declared a hurricane on October 2, 1995. It made landfall in the United States in Florida on October 4. It had reached the status of a category 3 hurricane with wind gusts reaching 115 mph at the time it hit the coast. Because of the trees that were knocked over, Opal is responsible for the deaths of nine people. Storm forecasters were watching the powerful hurricane and became alarmed at the rapid intensification as it neared Florida. Evacuations were ordered for residents of the Gulf Coast on October 4, but thousands found themselves gridlocked on the major highways due to the mass exodus. Storm surge reached 10 to 15 feet in height and caused damage and destruction to over a thousand homes and an equal number of boats in the area. Southern Alabama was also affected with property damage and fifty people were killed due to heavy rains and flooding in Guatemala and Mexico.

13. Hurricane Isabel 2003 - Total damage: $5.37 billion

Hurricane Isabel Made landfall on September 18, 2003 in North Carolina. It had reached the status of category 2 hurricane with wind speeds reaching 100 mph and storm surges of 8 feet. This caused rivers to flood and mass destruction to homes and other structures. More than 4 million people were left without electricity for weeks. Multiple trees were toppled along with power lines going down because of the strong winds. Isabel is responsible for 51 deaths in the area.

12. Hurricane Floyd 1999 - Total damage: $6.9 billion

Floyd gained tremendous intensity and size before it made landfall at Cape Fear, North Carolina as a category 2 hurricane. The wind speeds maxed out at 105 mph when the storm it on September 16, 1999. the storm surged reached heights of 15 feet as Floyd moved over the North Carolina border into southeastern Virginia. It briefly returned to the Atlantic Ocean and hit Long Island, New York on September 17. Between 15 and 20 inches of rainfall fell onto areas of Virginia and North Carolina. Rivers were high before the massive storm hit and this caused the rivers to swell and jump their banks with the result of catastrophic flooding that was widespread in scope. Floyd also triggered a minimum of ten tornados which tore through North Carolina. The storm caused 56 deaths in the United States.

11. Hurricane Hugo 1989 - Total damage: $7 billion

On September 19, 1989, Hugo roared across the east part of Puerto Rico, as a category 4 hurricane. It barreled northwards and made landfall in the United States on September 22, hitting Charleston, South Carolina, still at category 4 strength. The sustained winds were clocked at 104 mph with gusts that reached up to 120 mph. Huge storm tides of 20 feet bombarded the coastline. The huge size and speed of Hugo drove it inland 200 miles, where it reached areas that were not commonly affected by coastal hurricanes.

10. Hurricane Jeanne 2004 - Total damage: $7.66 billion

Hurricane Jeanne developed an eye that was 50 miles across by the time it made landfall on September 26, 2004. It hit the eastern coast of Florida as a category 3 hurricane with winds up to 120 mph. The storm surges reached more than three feet in height with between 8 and 13 inches of rain falling in the affected areas. Before the monster storm reached the coast of Florida, it struck Haiti with torrential rains that caused extreme and widespread flooding that left 200,000 people homeless and taking the lives of 3,000 people.

9. Tropical Storm Allison 2001 - Total damage: $9 billion

On June 5, 2001, Allison reached the status of a tropical storm. Later in the day, it made landfall near Galveston, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. This infamous storm didn't reach hurricane strength, but the damage was greater than many other hurricanes that impacted different areas of the world. The storm stalled over the area for four full days, bringing heavy rainfall which lasted for up to ten hours at a time in some areas. This led to widespread flooding in the Houston area that was devastating. the storm returned to the Gulf of Mexico on June 9th, and made a second landfall in Louisiana on June 10. It brought torrential rains to Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Florida, causing mass flooding. The storm moved forward and dissipated on June 18, moving off the coast of New England. Up to 38 inches of rain was recorded in parts of Texas. Highways and neighborhoods were inundated with the flood waters, affecting 22 million people who resided in the affected areas. 23 tornadoes were spawned by the massive storm, leaving 41 dead.

8. Hurricane Frances 2004 - Total damages: $9.51 billion

Francis made landfall in the United States as a category 2 hurricane, striking Stuart, Florida around midnight on September 5, 2004. It came in with wind speeds of 105 mph, and was responsible for the deaths of 7 people in the US. The storm weakened as it made its way across the peninsula of Florida and was diminished to the status of a tropical storm, just prior to entering the Gulf of Mexico on September 6. Francis regrouped and started moving back towards the Big Bend region of Florida, hitting it again, later that afternoon. It gradually weakened as it churned across the area, reaching West Virginia on September 9. The storm surges from Francis reached 6 feet above normal and left in its wake 18 inches of rain in North Carolina. The storm spun up over 100 tornadoes throughout the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states.

7. Hurricane Charley 2004 - Total damages: $16.3 billion

On August 13, 2004, Charley made landfall in the southwestern portion of Florida. The hurricane was small in size, but it was a fierce one. It reached the status of category 4 with wind speeds of 150 mph. It came close to hitting Orlando, and traveled across the state, making its exit near Daytona Beach. The storm began to weaken after it moved back out into the Atlantic, but it wasn't through with the United States yet. It made landfall on August 14, striking North Carolina as a category 1 hurricane, then continued to weaken to a tropical storm. The storm produced 16 tornadoes in the States of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. It was responsible for the deaths of ten people in the United States.

6. Hurricane Ivan 2004 - Total damages: $18.82 billion

Ivan made landfall on September 16, 2004 in Gulf Shores, Alabama as a category 3 hurricane. The wind speeds were raging at nearly 120 mph. The storm moved inland and began to weaken, but it generated over 100 tornadoes as it moved through, and torrential rains flooded the southeastern part of the United States. the storm then moved back out into the Atlantic Ocean and made a loop, coming back to hit the southern region of Florida. After wreaking havoc in this area, it crossed into the Gulf of Mexico, becoming a tropical depression on September 24, and hitting southwestern Louisiana as a weaker storm. Ivan is responsible for the deaths of 25 people. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes in this catastrophic event. In addition, businesses were damaged and large scale rebuilding was in order. This affected the economy negatively and it has taken years for families to rebuild their lives.

5. Hurricane Wilma 2005 - Total damage: $21 billion

Hurricane Wilma was a late bloomer that developed in late October of 2005. The hurricane crossed into the Florida Peninsula as a category 3 in strength with wind speeds of 112 mph, also creating ten tornadoes as it churned across the state. It made landfall on October 24 of 2005 and headed on a northeastern track. Winds at Lake Okeechobee reached 92 mph. The hurricane continued to churn up the coast, weakening as it hit Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 25. It caused power outages, damage to homes and intense flooding as it made its way across the eastern seaboard, becoming the fifth costliest hurricane in the world for now.

4. Hurricane Andrew 1992 - Total damages: $26.5 billion

Hurricane Andrew built up to a category 5 hurricane with barometers measuring 23.23 pounds per square inch of pressure when it made landfall on August 24, 1992 in Homestead, Florida. It became the third most intense storm in history to ever hit the United States. The wind speeds reached a staggering 177 mph as it slammed into the state, bringing storm surge of 17 feet in height. After the hurricane left Florida, it headed towards the Gulf of Mexico, end began a northward turn, slamming into Louisiana as a category 3 monster on the 26th of August. The storm surge in Louisiana reached 8-foot heights, eroding the coastlines and beaches with the monster storm tides. A tornado was generated by Andrew that hit the southeastern part of Louisiana, injuring 32 people and killing 2. The total death toll of Andrew reached 23 deaths in the United States.

3. Hurricane Ike 2008 - Total damages: $29.52 billion

The third costliest hurricane in the world is Hurricane Ike. On September 13, 2008, Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas as a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 110 mph. It made severe impacts through Arkansas and eastern Texas. before it weakened and moved over the Mississippi Valley on September 24th. Nearly 15,000 tourists were evacuated from the Florida Keys in advance of the pending storm. Hurricane force winds ripped through the Ohio valley and spread into Canada. 2.6 million people lost power in Louisiana and Texas and another 2.6 million lost power in Ohio. Storm surges of 15 to 20 feet caused massive flooding in the Galveston Bay and Bolivar Peninsula areas. Ike delivered 19 inches of rain to southeastern portions of Texas. Strong winds pulled over trees and downed power lines. The catastrophic hurricane Ike was directly responsible for the deaths of 21 people in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas as well as an additional 28 in eight other states.

2. Hurricane Katrina 2005 - Total damages: $108 billion

Hurricane Katrina was the second costliest hurricane in the history of the world. It also goes on record for being the deadliest ever, with direct responsibility for 1,200 deaths and adding the indirect toll, the total reaching 1,500. The storm was declared a hurricane on August 25, 2005. this was just prior to its landfall ear Florida's Miami Dade County line. Katrina continued onward, pounding its way across southern Florida until it hit the Gulf of Mexico. This is where the already powerful storm strengthened into a category 5 storm, reaching wind speeds of up to 175 mph on August 28. It continued to move towards the Louisiana and Mississippi areas on August 29, weakening into a category 3 storm with wind speeds recorded at 125 mph. Even though the storm weakened, it still produced 33 tornadoes. In addition, the storm surge created water that reached 28 feet above the normal tide level along the coast of Mississippi and waves reached up to 20 feet higher in Louisiana. The levies in New Orleans were catastrophically breached, causing widespread flooding, the loss of power, homes and the need for evacuations. Seventy five percent of the city of New Orleans experienced flooding. Countless families were relocated because their homes sustained a total loss due to water damage and mold growth after the flood waters receded.

1. Hurricane Rita 2005 - Total damage: $150 billion

Rita ripped through the Gulf of Mexico at a category 2 strength, and within 24 hours, the vicious monster of a storm strengthened to a category 5. This rapid intensification over a brief period of time caused great alarm as analysts and weather forecasters watched its development. It ripped through parts of Texas and Louisiana, also causing severe damage in the Florida Keys. When it made landfall near the Texas Louisiana border, it was a category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of 115 mph. This occurred on September 24, 2005. It caused flooding from storm surges that reached between 10 and 15 feet in height. Mass flooding occurred in pars of New Orleans which had already been devastated by Katrina the prior month, and areas of Texas. The rainfall amounts were between 5 and 9 inches. in Texas and Louisiana where more than ninety tornadoes were also spawned. Rita took the lives of seven people in the United States and displaced large numbers of the population in the affected areas.

*We've omitted Sandy because technically it wasn't a hurricane when it made landfall and it was even named "Superstorm Sandy."  We've also omitted Harvey, Irma, and Maria because totals haven't been calculated yet.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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