Weather Whys Feb. 12, 2015

Q: What are some of the worst-ever weather events in the U.S.?

A:  This question gets asked a lot, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. There are several “worst weather” lists compiled by NOAA and other groups, but the following disasters are almost always included on every one.  “The deadliest ever occurred in Texas – it’s the Galveston Hurricane of 1900,” he explains. “It killed at least 8,000 people, leveled the city and is still considered by most to be the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.” Number 2 on the list would likely be Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, breeching 53 different levees, killing over 1,800 people and causing $125 billion in damages. “The Dust Bowl period of the 1930s caused by a large-scale drought and poor agricultural practices wiped out thousands of farms in the Great Plains, causing landowners to declare bankruptcy,” McRoberts says. For tornadoes, the outbreak in late April 2011 had an incredible 343 tornadoes in the central and southeastern United States, which killed 321 people and caused $10 billion in damage.

Q: What are some others?
A: Hurricane Camille in 1969 killed 256 people and is still one of the strongest storms ever recorded, McRoberts adds.  “Most natural disaster lists include the Midwest flood of 1993, the costliest on record, which caused $21 billion in damage and killed 48 people. Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which caused $27 billion in damage and killed 61 people in Florida and Louisiana and the Tri-State Tornado of 1925, which destroyed 15,000 homes and killed 695 people in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana also rank high on most lists. The most recent event that may be considered among the worst ever is Superstorm Sandy, which battered the Northeast in late October 2012 and ranks just behind Hurricane Katrina in terms of economic loss at $65 billion.”

Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.