Geek Out

The Six Most Extreme Hurricanes Of All Time

Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the east coast of North America. The storm is massive — but will she be among the most extreme hurricane of all time?

A lot of criteria factors in when ranking the severity of a storm, like the total death toll, maximum wind speeds, and the staggering costs of damage. Here’s a look at some of the record setters — six of the worst storms we’ve ever seen.


The Bhola Cyclone is the deadliest tropical cyclone on record. It hit Bangladesh (East Pakistan at the time) and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970, and it killed between 300,000 and 500,000 people — exact numbers aren’t known — when its surge flooded the low lying islands in the Ganges Delta. It was a massive Category 3 storm with winds that reached upwards of 185km/h.
Photo: NOAA


A tempest with a name like Super Typhoon Nina doesn’t mess around. It slammed into China on August 1, 1975, with peak wind speeds of 250km/h and completely destroyed the Banquiao Dam. This caused massive flooding and the death of more than 100,000 people.
Photo: US Navy


People were hardly even warned about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. In fact, the weather service had an official practice of avoiding the word “hurricane” so people wouldn’t panic. Bad move. Galveston was just 2.7m above sea level and was totally unprepared for the Category 4 storm’s 4.5m surge and 217km/h winds that completely washed over the tiny south Texas island. The bill totalled today’s equivalent of $US500 million, 6000 people died, and the entire town was basically destroyed.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Before the 1938 New England Hurricane, no major hurricanes had hit the region since 1869. It started as a Category 5 and made landfall in Long Island as a Category 3. It destroyed 57,000 homes, killed as many as 800 people, and caused today’s equivalent of $US4.7 billion in damage. Clean up was apparently so rough that even as late as 1951, there was still visible wreckage.
Photo: Creative Commons


What 1992′s Hurricane Andrew lacked in size it made up for in sheer force. It made landfall as a Category 3 in August 1992 and wiped out whole communities in the Miami area. It hit in a hurricane season that had been relatively quiet, and until Katrina, it was the most expensive hurricane ever to ravage the US, costing $US26.5 billion.
Photo: FEMA

Katrina was the costliest hurricane to ever hit the US, and one of the deadliest storms on record. It’s till fresh in the nation’s memory, and over seven years after the August 2005 storm, New Orleans is still dealing with the far-reaching damage. When the levees broke, 80 per cent of the city flooded. The devastating storm killed 1836 people (705 are still missing), and cost $US208 billion and counting.
Photo: NASA


Have you subscribed to Gizmodo Australia's email newsletter? You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Product Finder

Find more great products at