10 Worst Hurricanes

Hurricanes represent an annual threat to the lives and livelihood of millions living in coastal or insular geographic regions. Throughout history, certain natural disasters have stood out as especially destructive. This is a compilation of the 10 worst hurricanes in modern history, with 10 being the worst.

The World’s 10 Worst Hurricanes

  1. Sandy
    • Death Toll: 186
    • Economic Losses: $65 Billion
    • Summary: In 2012, this massive, slow-moving storm wreaked havoc not only in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica but also on the United States East Coast in New Jersey and New York. Sandy caused devastating flooding, killing 80 people in the Caribbean and damaging 18,000 homes. Sandy hit especially hard in Haiti, where the storm execrated food insecurity, which Haiti had already been struggling with after Hurricane Isaac.
  2. David
    • Death Toll: 2,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.54 Billion
    • Summary: In 1979, Hurricane David, a powerful Category 5 storm, struck both the Dominican Republic and the East Coast of the United States. In the Dominican Republic, David killed at least 600 people and left over 150,000 homeless.
  3. Jeanne
    • Death Toll: 3,000
    • Economic Losses: $8 billion
    • Summary: Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane of the 2004 season. Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane, which caused devastation in the same region as the prior storms on this list, the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States.
  4. Flora
    • Death Toll: 7,000
    • Economic Losses: $125 million
    • Summary: Flora struck in 1963, but it remains one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes of all time. The storm swept through Tobago, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, triggering massive landslides and destroying crops. Inland flooding caused by the storm surge was among the chief causes of crop destruction, especially in Haiti. In Tobago, crop destruction was so great that the agricultural backbone of the economy was abandoned in favor of a new emphasis on tourism as a means of revenue.
  5. Katrina
    • Death Toll: 1,800
    • Economic Losses: $125 billion.
    • Summary: Katrina is infamous for being one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike the United States. Coastal flooding caused by Katrina completely devastated many communities on the gulf coast. Katrina nearly completely submerged New Orleans and destroyed around 800,000 homes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. While it is not quite among the deadliest hurricanes of all time, the extensive destruction caused by Katrina makes it by far the costliest in terms of economic damages.
  6. Maria
    • Death Toll: 4,500
    • Economic Losses: $90 Billion
    • Summary: Maria is the most recent of the tropical storms featured on this list, and the devastation that it brought is still fresh in Puerto Rico, Dominica and Guadeloupe. The most severe effects of Maria were felt by Puerto Rico, where Maria severely damaged the infrastructure, leaving countless citizens without power for extended periods. Maria was also the most costly hurricane in modern history for the island territory. Fortunately, thanks to efforts funded by the federal government, Puerto Rico has seen a slow, but steady recovery, with power being entirely restored.
  7. Fifi
    • Death Toll: 8,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.8 Billion
    • Summary: Fifi was a catastrophic storm that struck Central America in 1974. Fifi triggered landslides and flash floods, which swept through crop fields and small towns throughout the region. Dozens of villages in Honduras were completely wiped out. Twenty-three hundred people were killed when a natural dam in Choloma gave way to the flooding and burst. The impact of Fifi sparked a series of reconstruction projects among the villages of Honduras, which succeeded in rebuilding housing and infrastructure across the nation.
  8. Galveston
    • Death Toll: 8,000-12,000
    • Economic Losses: $20 million
    • Summary: Galveston was a vibrant trading port, and the largest city in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Though Galveston had endured many tropical storms since its founding, the 1900 Hurricane was in a class of its own, and the ensuing 15-foot storm surge wiped out the city, destroying 3,600 buildings. Galveston was the deadliest natural disaster in the United States history at the time. Remarkably, despite the immense damages, and the loss of 20 percent of Galveston’s inhabitants, the people managed to rebuild and construct a new seawall to protect it from future catastrophes.
  9. Mitch
    • Death Toll: 10,000-20,000
    • Economic Losses: $6 billion
    • Summary: Hurricane Mitch was a Category 5 storm that predominantly affected Nicaragua and Honduras. Flash flooding and landslides caused by Mitch destroyed thousands of homes, rendering 20 percent of the population homeless. Mitch also caused extensive damage to the infrastructure of Honduras, leaving numerous roads and bridges destroyed, which prevented the transport of much-needed aid. In Nicaragua, a mudslide off of La Casitas Volcano killed over 2,000, and over 1 million homes were damaged or destroyed. In the aftermath of Mitch, countries around the globe donated billions to Central America, which the affected countries used to rebuild, constructing stronger foundations to withstand future disasters.
  10. The Great Hurricane of 1780
    • Death Toll: 22,000-27,000
    • Economic Losses: Unknown
    • Summary: The Great Hurricane of 1780 predates modern storm-tracking technology, but it is widely accepted to be the deadliest storm in history. Making landfall on Oct. 10, the Great Hurricane devastated Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean, causing incalculable damage and claiming more lives than any other storm in recorded history. The Great Hurricane represents a disaster of unprecedented scale and truly belongs at the top of the 10 worst hurricanes of all time.

Hurricanes often serve as a bitter reminder of human vulnerability, however, even when in the path of the 10 worst hurricanes, people show an incredible capacity to adapt and recover from tragedy. The 10 worst hurricanes of all time illustrate not only the fierce violence of nature but also the ingenuity and tenacity of humanity.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Flickr

On August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated a region known for having a good time, especially on Mardi Gras. Ten years later, experts are looking beyond the beads and glitter, wishing to improve demographic and social discrepancies that were present before Katrina.

Before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, concentrated poverty was mostly overlooked with 40 percent of individuals residing in New Orleans living at or below the poverty line.

Out of the people who evacuated in the wake of the category 5 hurricane, a majority of the poor without means of transportation were left to wait out the storm as 80 percent of the city was submerged.

As of 2013, the poverty rate in the city of New Orleans has decreased to 27 percent, but with a drop in the city’s overall population since before Katrina, this number remains unchanged.

Fortunately, data shows that the number of the city’s poor residents has dropped from 39 percent in 2000 to 30 percent between 2009-2013.

Since Katrina, $71 billion in federal funds has improved both levees and created an improved disaster management plan to help improve the city and learn from the mistakes for future natural disasters.

Now, the city’s focus is to continue improving and finding different solutions to make the city great once again. This starts with educating the children.

Before Katrina hit, New Orleans had one of the worst school systems in the country.

Due to a majority of public schools being converted into charter schools after Katrina, New Orleans outperforms the rest of the state in terms of high school graduation rate, rising from 54 percent in 2004 to 73 percent in 2014.

With students having a greater chance of graduating from high school, future students will have a greater chance of attending college and preventing their families from becoming impoverished.

In the words of Allison Plyer, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, “Greater New Orleans is in some ways rebuilding better than before.”

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Brookings, Forbes, The Washington Post, USA Today

Photo: Unsplash


The United States has always prided itself on being a leader in the push for global development, yet, the United States still ranks close to the bottom in aid donations with only point two percent of the federal budget allocated to foreign aid.

Sometimes, passing bills intended to increase this percentage can be hard to swing with voters. From the U.S. perspective, foreign aid can appear to be a one way street.

This is a common misconception. The benefits to increasing the quality of life of the other 95% of the world’s population have numerous economic, altruistic and security benefits. But there is an even more tangible way to measure to returns on our aid pledges: when the United States finds itself in a situation, the world often tries to return the favor.

Here are just five examples of how foreign aid made a difference here at home:

1. Hurricane Katrina Response

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, both allies and non-allies of the United States pledged over $850 million in aid, and numerous offers of in-kind assistance such as helicopters, medical teams and first aid equipment. Singapore alone, a country that is slotted to receive $240,000 from USAID, send three Chinook helicopters that were used to transport nearly 100 air force personnel to aid with evacuation.

“I’m not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn’t asked for it,” said President Bush after Katrina devastated New Orleans. Yet the international community responded en masse.

2. Joplin, MI Laptops from the UAE

In 2011, a series of massive tornadoes swept through Joplin, Missouri, which lies on the border between Missouri and Oklahoma. An already struggling town with nearly 62% of children living below the federal poverty line, the tornadoes destroyed Joplin’s public school system, as well as the local hospital.

In 2013, the United Arab Emirates pledged to accelerate the rebuilding process by removing the burden of textbook replacement costs on public schools. Instead, they eliminated the need for books entirely by providing all of the 2,200 students with a MacBook laptop. Additionally, the UAE donated five million dollars to rebuild a neonatal intensive care unite at local Mercy Hospital.

3. Turkey Gives Clean Water to Oregon Reservation

In 2013, Turkey’s agency for Cooperation and Collaboration (TIKA) provided $200,000 in aid to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation Oregon. The funds were used to build a water tower in confederation with a local elementary school. The tower was predicted to meet the reservation’s water needs for the next 10 years.

This was the first foreign aid donation to a private entity in the United States, according to the Washington Post.

4. China Sends Aid During the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

As early as 1906, the Chinese governments sent “one hundred thousand Taels” to aid in the relief effort for the earthquake and devastating fire in San Francisco. The amount was donated as “a mark of friendship between the two countries.”

The aid was instrumental in the reconstruction San Francisco, and is remembered in a special exhibition displaying telegraph correspondences between the Chinese Empress and the United States in the San Francisco museum.

5. Equipment for BP Oil Spill Containment

After the explosion of the deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20th, 2010, the United States received 13 unrequested offers of assistance from over 17 countries.

According to the Washington Post, “the Administration accepted Mexico’s offer of two skimmers and 13,779 feet of boom; a Dutch offer of three sets of Koseq sweeping arms, which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil; and eight skimming systems offered by Norway.”

This equipment helped to speed up the slow process of oil containment and cleanup, preventing further damage to the gulf ecosystem.

– Emma Betuel

Sources: The Heritage Foundation, The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, The Washington Post
Photo: The Washington Post

are natural disasters increasing frequency strength hazards
Are natural disasters increasing? Yes. Natural disasters are unpreventable occurrences that take place, ranging from mild to absolutely destructive. In recent years, it may seem as if these storms have increased from prior decades.


Natural Disasters: An Upward Trend


According to recent studies, it is true: the number of natural and geophysical disasters taking place each year is noticeably skyrocketing.

Geophysical disasters include earthquakes, volcanoes, dry rock-falls, landslides and avalanches. Climatic disasters are classified as floods, storms, tropical cyclones, local storms, heat/cold waves, droughts and wildfires.

In 1970, the average of natural disasters that were reported was 78; in 2004, this number jumped to 348. According to AccuWeather, since 1990, natural disasters have affected 217 million people every single year.

From 1980 to 2009 there was an 80 percent increase in the growth of climate-related disasters. Between 2001 and 2010, more than $1.2 trillion was lost to the increased rates of natural disasters. This was a dramatic rise, which between 1981 and 1990 had been roughly $528 billion.

With storms such as Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Irene, as well as the tsunamis and earthquakes that plagued Japan, a trend is apparent. But what is the cause of the horrific increase in disasters?

Scientists have concluded that the surges in climatic disasters is due to both man-made and natural elements. Contrary to popular belief, the sole cause of the increase is not attributed to global warming.

However, global warming has been increasing the temperatures of the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere. This contributes to the severity of the various types of storm rates rising – as the metaphysical makeup alters, so does the intensity.

Urbanization in regions that are prone to flooding has steadily increased the likelihood that more flash floods and coastal floods will take place. These floods result in mudslides and various injuries that add to the climbing statistics.

But how are humans helping to create typhoons, hurricanes, and earthquakes?

Human Contributions to Natural Disasters


A swell in population plays a large part in natural disasters. Some scientists theorize that natural disasters are not just necessarily increasing, but our methods of tracking them are improving.

With the ability to keep record of these disasters, scientists notice them more frequently than in the past. Limited means of keeping track of the natural disasters meant that the average could not be compared to previous accounts.

Through increasing population, more injuries or deaths occur, even with minor storms. Generally, tropical vacation areas are hot spots for climate tragedies. With hundreds to thousands of individuals clustered in one region, storms can wipe out more surface area in a shorter period of time.

Corresponding with the World Bank’s “Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis” reports show that over 160 countries hold more than one-fourth of their populations in regions of high mortality risks from one or more natural disasters.

Although natural disasters themselves have increased, the positive side is that deaths from these catastrophes have declined significantly. The advancement of technology has allowed for the predictions of climate-related disasters to better protect those in harm’s way.

– Samaria Garrett

Sources: Live Science, AccuWeather, Washington Post
Photo: Izi Smile

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of people and families were displaced. They were sheltered in football stadiums while the Federal Emergency Management Agency worked to respond to the disaster. Families were separated, shelter was inadequate and the infamous trailers that the government delivered as temporary housing were ineffective. While Hurricane Katrina was handled particularly poorly, this kind of scenario is typical of disaster relief. A coffee cup may have changed all that.

Inspired by a Coffee Cup

Michael McDaniel, founder and CEO of Reaction Housing, was disturbed by the way that disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina was handled. He wanted to find a new, better way to house refugees after disasters, and an upside-down coffee cup gave him the idea of where to start.

The Exo Housing Unit is a simple structure consisting of two parts, an upper domed shell and a lower flooring unit. The two pieces snap together, just like a disposable coffee cup and its lid.

Stats of the Exo

At 80 square feet, Exo Housing Units sleep four adults, are climate controlled, have digital door locks and beds included and cost an astounding $5,000.

For comparison, each unit costs a quarter of the price of a traditional trailer, the likes of which were used following Hurricane Katrina and a third of the price of a modified shipping container.

Also, unlike traditional trailers, Exo’s can be used repeatedly, or recycled to make material for new units.

The Exo is strong and light with the bottom shell made up of birch and steel, and the upper composed of Tegris, a durable aircraft-grade aluminum composite material.

Altogether, each unit weighs about 400 pounds, meaning that four adults can easily set them up without any power tools in under five minutes.

Additionally, the Exo’s design makes it stackable, meaning that it can be easily transported in bulk, making more units accessible to disaster sites more quickly.

The Human Element

One of the most traumatizing consequences of a natural disaster is being separated from family and friends. The design of the Exo allows for units to be placed in any kind of configuration, even attaching in a straight line for larger families and neighborhood units.

The software included in the Exo makes them far safer than traditional disaster housing as well. Their digital locks provide protection from the outside, and the units are remotely monitored for temperature, making fire detection and prevention far more feasible.

The units are also wired for electricity, giving people the ability to keep electronics charged, keeping them in touch with family and friends outside the disaster zone.

Bringing Exo to the World

So far, Reaction Housing has raised around $1.5 million from donations and investors. This amount is enough to generate a core team and start up a manufacturing and supply chain. With prototypes already being manufactured, the next step is to raise the money for production. In fact, Reaction’s goal is to have those funds raised in a year at the latest. Demand is already coming in for Exo Housing Units, and rather than ignoring the people who need assistance now, Reaction plans to send out a number of prototypes.

The company has set up an Indiegogo campaign and has already exceeded its $50,000 goal. The campaign will remain open to donations until April 3, before the prototypes will be sent out on their test trials.

While there are still hurdles to jump, with proper funding, the Exo may be a huge part of disaster relief in the near future.

– Cameron Barney

Sources: Reaction Housing, Vimeo, Fast Company, CNN Money, Indiegogo
Photo: Gizmag

From medicine to law, admittance to many vocations is attached to undertaking an oath to serve humanity. Conversely, universities and institutions of higher education pride themselves on embodying a collective entity of bright minds dedicated to pursuing knowledge for the sake of serving a higher purpose.

One would be hard pressed to find a school that holds itself to these rigorous standards more than Harvard University, where the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has been making remarkable strides in assisting victims of human rights violations, war, and natural disasters since its establishment on campus grounds in 1999. Taking advantage of Harvard’s sterling reputation in both research and education, the center has combined studies in fields ranging from public health to sociology in its solution-based and interdisciplinary approach to tackling humanitarian crises around the world.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, HHI warned Louisiana and Mississippi residents against consuming potentially contaminated water. The storm had produced perfect conditions for waterborne disease to spread. Thus, it was imperative for federal and state agencies to provide a despondent populace with clean food and water, as well as basic health services, in a quick and efficient manner. Studies funded by HHI, meanwhile, have suggested that a rise in the incidence of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo may be correlated with the withdrawal of UN troops, which provide civilians with protection against rebel forces. Aside from offering expert advice, HHI has helmed technology to better track and prevent such incidents. Its members analyzed U.S. satellite images to uncover the cause of damage to several oil fields in the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan last year. Because these reservoirs were located along the border between the two countries and both held the other accountable for striking first, it was critical for HHI to prevent the formation of further tensions between the two nations by doing a thorough assessment of the evidence at hand.

HHI also has an eye toward human development. Specifically, it aims to foster new leaders in the field of humanitarianism through innovative training programs. By simulating extreme conditions – even going so far as to place students on food rations and creating the occasional kidnapping scenario – HHI is able to better prepare its members to think rationally and act with conviction on the field.

Although HHI has been in existence for only 14 years, its past and present accomplishments suggest that it will remain a stronghold of humanitarianism for decades to come.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: Harvard Humanitarian Institute, The Boston Globe, BBC, Impunity Watch, Harvard School of Public Health
Photo: Harvard Gazette

Down and Dirty: The Eagles Wings Foundation

No one expected the magnitude of the damage Hurricane Katrina would inflict on New Orleans in 2005. The end result of the storm was devastating.

In total, over $105 billion in damages was recorded. More than 1,500 people lost their lives and 15 million people were impacted by the storm. Homes were destroyed. Some were able to get help and be evacuated right away, but not everyone was so lucky.

The Eagles Wings Foundation pledges to provide assistance to those in need. A multi-faith based non-profit organization, EWF focuses on door-to-door operations to extract survivors of disasters out of their homes and lead them to a safe, more suitable environment.

The founding of EWF was a culmination of the relief responses to Hurricane Floyd, which hit the Bahamas in 1999. Since then, EWF has provided relief to the majority of the immense natural disasters, including the BP oil spill and Haiti’s devastating earthquakes.

Volunteers make an immediate impact on those affected by natural disasters. They do everything from bringing emergency supplies to the survivors to assessing the damage of homes and developing a report. EWF does not wait on donations to reach the survivors, most likely when it is too late. Instead, they take a direct, interactive approach to ensure that relief gets to those suffering right away.

The results of EPW’s groundwork are quite impressive. About 126,000 survivors of Hurricane Katrina were served food, water, and medicine to their homes. In Haiti, nearly 2.5 million meals were distributed in just eight days by the first responders of EPW. This immediate relief most likely saved numerous lives.

The Eagles Wings Foundation takes a down and dirty approach to international disaster aid and the results of this hard work are vast. For more information on how to become a volunteer for EFW, visit

 William Norris

Sources: Eagles Wings Foundation, Hurricane Katrina Relief
Photo: WordPress