The Deadliest and Costliest Hurricanes in U.S. History

Research shows feminine-named hurricanes are especially destructive, but gender-neutral storms can be extremely deadly.

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With hurricane season in full swing, people shouldn't underestimate hurricanes with female names, a recent study suggests.

Feminine-named hurricanes collect far higher death tolls than masculine-named hurricanes, data published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed. The study found that names cause gender-based expectations about how dangerous a hurricane will be, consequently affecting the precautions people take to remain safe.

Aligning with the study's findings, Katrina, Sandy and Audrey are feminine names associated with storms that have devastated entire areas.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

But the deadliest hurricane in the U.S. since 1851 had an area-specific name. The 1900 Galveston Hurricane in Texas claimed at least 8,000 lives and as many as 12,000, according to a report from the National Hurricane Center. The Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale also demolished 3,600 homes, according to The Weather Channel.

The Okeechobee Hurricane, which resulted in as many as 3,000 deaths in 1928, was also without gender bias. The Category 4 tropical cyclone made landfall in Palm Beach County, Florida, and had a storm surge with waves as high as 20 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

[MILLIGAN: This Is the Story of the Female Hurricane]

The U.S. began giving tropical storms female names in 1953. In 1978, male names were added to Eastern North Pacific storm lists, and a year later they appeared in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico lists, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Nearly 30 years later, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and killed 1,200 people, ranking it third on the list of deadliest hurricanes.

Katrina was also the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, resulting in $108 billion in damage. It far surpassed all other hurricane costs and is followed by 2012's Hurricane Sandy, which did $50 billion in damage and resulted in at least 147 deaths.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

As for this season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season for the Atlantic because of El Niño. The abnormal increase in oceanic temperatures in the Pacific can increase atmospheric stability and lower chances of intense tropical storms, according to the center.


[SEE: Sandy, Then and Now]

“And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it is important to remember it takes only one land-falling storm to cause a disaster,” NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said in a news release.

The eastern Pacific, however, has a 50 percent chance of an above-normal season, NOAA predicted – also thanks to El Niño.

“The eastern Pacific has been in an era of low activity for hurricanes since 1995, but this pattern will be offset in 2014 by the impacts of El Nino," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.