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Hurricane Katrina 2005

Top 10 Natural Disasters in U.S. History

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The top 10 natural disasters to devastate the United States have accounted for thousands of deaths. Keep reading to take a look at the top 10 natural disasters in U.S. history based on total fatalities.

10. 1995 Chicago Heat Wave – 739 Deaths

Extreme heat isn’t typically viewed as a disaster threat, but the 1995 Chicago heat wave proves otherwise. In fact, heat waves account for more deaths in the United States than any other natural disaster.

9. 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane – 1,000 to 2,000 Fatalities

The Sea Islands Hurricane made landfall on August 27, 1893 near Savannah, Georgia. The Category 3 storm resulted in deaths in both Georgia and South Carolina.

8. 1871 Peshtigo Fire – 1,200 to 2,500 Fatalities

The deadliest fire in U.S. history took place on October 8, 1871 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Interestingly, the fire took place on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire (estimated 200 to 300 deaths).

7. 1980 United States Heat Wave – 1,700 Fatalities

Long-term drought and high temperatures between the months of June and September combined to ravage much of the Midwestern United States. Over these months, heat exhaustion and other causes directly resulted in the death of at least 1,700 people.

6. 2005 Hurricane Katrina – 1,836 Fatalities

The most notorious natural disaster in recent memory, Hurricane Katrina brought heavy winds and rains to New Orleans and surrounding areas. Levy failures in New Orleans contributed significantly to the overall number of deaths.

5. 1893 Cheniere Caminada Hurricane – 2,000 Fatalities

Cheniere Caminada is an island portion of Louisiana. When the Great October Storm made landfall in 1893, the sheer force of the hurricane resulted in the deaths of approximately 2,000 people.

4. 1889 Johnstown Flood – 2,209 Fatalities

A period of exceptional rainfall eventually led to the failure of South Fork Dam just upstream from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. As a result, 20 million tons of water flooded the city.

3. 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane – 3,000 Fatalities

The 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane is the only recorded category 5 hurricane to ever hit Puerto Rico (300 were estimated dead). After a direct hit to the island, the hurricane continued onward to Florida, where is resulted in at least 2,500 additional fatalities.

2. 1906 San Francisco Earthquake – 3,000 to 6,000 Fatalities

On April 18, 1906, a 7.9 magnitude (estimate) earthquake struck the Bay Area of California. Damage caused from the earthquake, along with ensuing fires, combined to create this high death rate.

1. Galveston Hurricane of 1900 – 6,000 to 12,000 Fatalities

The deadliest natural disaster in recorded U.S. history occurred on September 8, 1900. Poor evacuation procedures coupled with the enormous strength of the hurricane to increase the death toll.

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