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Subject: E9) Which tropical cyclones have caused the most deaths and most damage?

Contributed by Chris Landsea (NHC)

"The death toll in the infamous Bangladesh Cyclone of 1970 has had
several estimates, some wildly speculative, but it seems certain that 
at least 300,000 people died from the associated storm tide [surge] 
in the low-lying deltas." (Holland 1993)

The largest damage caused by a tropical cyclone as estimated by monetary amounts has been Hurricane Katrina (2005) as it struck the Bahamas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama: US $40.6 Billion in insured losses, and an estimated $108 billion in total losses. This compares to $50 billion for Sandy (2012) and $37.5 billion for Ike (2008).

However, if one normalizes hurricane damage by inflation, wealth changes and coastal county population increases, then Katrina is only the third worst, after the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane and the lethal 1900 Galveston Hurricane. If the 1926 storm hit in 2005, it is estimated that it would cause over $140 billion in damages, and the 1900 storm about $92 billion (Pielke, Gratz, Landsea, Collins, Saunders, Musulin 2006).

Revised May 10, 2013

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