The high-powered winds and storm surges of a hurricane can result in extensive damage and massive fatalities. Hurricanes can reach full strength in the Caribbean before suddenly turning in different directions to affect people along the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast.
Wind speed determines the category of a hurricane: a Category 1 is 74-95 miles per hour; Category 2, 96-110; Category 3, 111-130; Category 4, 131-155; and Category 5, 155 and over. However, damage and fatalities from a hurricane may also depend on location.
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Here are five of the deadliest hurricanes in American History:
With wind gusts of more than 120 miles an hour, a Category 4 hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas, in 1900 is considered the deadliest hurricane in American history. Between 8,000 and 12,000 people lost their lives, with more than 3,000 homes destroyed and more than $30 million in damage.
The second deadliest hurricane in American history was the 1928 storm that devastated residents in Okeechobee, Florida. It took the lives of 2,500 to 3,000 people, mostly because of a 6- to 9-foot water surge from Lake Okeechobee.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a Category 3 storm, but the powerful winds at its core and distribution through a large area caused 1,577 deaths in Louisiana and killed more than 200 people in Mississippi. Katrina struck Florida and the Gulf Coast before strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall in Buras, Louisiana, devastating New Orleans, and causing an overwhelming storm surge about 6 miles into South Mississippi.
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The 1926 hurricane that hit Miami, Florida, fooled local residents when its eye passed over the city. The calm lasted for about 35 minutes before the worst part of the hurricane caused a 10-foot storm surge at Miami Beach. The hurricane then moved inland, resulting in flooding from Lake Okeechobee when a weakened dike broke in several areas. About 150 drowned and an estimated 372 people died in the hurricane.
Hurricane Camille in 1969 had estimated wind speeds that reached 200 miles per hour on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, but the maximum speeds will never be known because the storm destroyed wind-recording instruments. Camille reached Category 5 status in the gulf before making landfall in Mississippi. Deaths were numbered at 256, which included fatalities on the Gulf Coast and later from Virginia flooding as the storm headed north and east.
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