Popularly known as the Sunshine State, people know Florida for its sunny days and warm beaches. The state’s sunny weather is one of the reasons why it is a tourist favorite. Nevertheless, it’s not always calm weather and sunshine in Florida. The state has had more than its fair share of storms and hurricanes; people even call it the “hurricane hub.” According to the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 40% of all hurricanes in America hit Florida. Since recordings of hurricane data began in 1851, observers and experts have noted that Florida averages tropical cyclonic activity at least once a year. Some of its hurricanes have been more intense and memorable than others. Here are some of the worst hurricanes that have hit Florida.
1. Florida Keys Hurricane (1919) — $22 Million in Damages
The September 10th, 1919 hurricane is one of the deadliest to have ever hit Florida. The storm inflicted major damage on the areas of Biscayne bay and the Florida Keys before it set course to hit Galveston. The Florida Keys Hurricane caused massive damage due to its powerful storm surge that destroyed several islands.
The storm’s major center of damage was in Florida’s waterways. It sank ten ships and seventeen houseboats, killing 500 out of the estimated 900 fatalities. Some of the bodies were never found. It is believed they were swept out by the strong storm surge.
In addition to human casualties, thousands of animals were also killed. The storm inspired the first Director of the National Hurricane Research Project, Robert Simpson. Simpson survived the storm at age nine and went on to study meteorology. Simpson also served as Director of the National Hurricane Center. The overall damage caused by the storm in 1919 was an estimated 22 million dollars, equivalent to 372 million dollars today.
2. Hurricane Andrew (1992) — $27 Billion in Damages
In 1992, South Miami-Dade County was hit by a category five hurricane that rippled across the county at 165 mph. It was one of the most costly hurricanes in Florida’s history, with 25 billion dollars in damages. The violent storm killed 75 people. Hurricane Andrew was a tropical wave that arose from the coast of Africa on August 14th, 1992. The wave moved westward across the Atlantic Ocean and quickly intensified as it swept across the Bahamas before turning to Florida. More than 100,000 homes were damaged, and more than 175,000 people became homeless after the disaster.
3. Hurricane Charley (2004) — $16.9 Billion in Damages
2004 was a nightmarish year for Florida in terms of floods. Within a short span of two months, Florida battled hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. Hurricane Charley was one of the worst storms that struck the Florida Gulf Coast that year. It was the first of four separate hurricanes to impact Florida in 2004. It was also the second major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Charley lasted from August 9th to 15th, attaining 150 mph at its peak intensity.
The disaster claimed the lives of nine people and caused around 16 billion in damages. In Lake Wales, Florida, a sand mine engulfed the state road and swallowed up a car. More than 739 structures were destroyed, and over 23,000 buildings were damaged in the storm. Southwest Florida was inflicted with 14.6 billion dollars worth of property damages.
Towns like Port Charlotte were hit by the hurricane, tornadoes, and thunderstorms in succession. Agricultural damage was the heaviest. Citrus crops suffered a reported 200 million dollars in damages. This led to a 50% inflation in the price of grapefruit juice. Agricultural losses alone due to Hurricane Charley totaled 2.2 billion dollars. The storm only just missed areas like Tampa Bay narrowly. Areas such as Fort Myers, Naples, and virtually all of the southwestern, eastern, and central areas of Florida witnessed their worst damages in 40 years.
4. Hurricane Wilma (2005) — $22.4 Billion in Damages
Just a year after the devastating effects of Hurricane Charley, Wilma ravaged Florida with unprecedented force and destruction, producing four feet surges around Miami and Virginia Key, causing an estimated $22.4 billion in damages. Five people died in the storm, and 5,111 homes were left uninhabitable. The storm, which was one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit Florida, destroyed Commercial buildings like the Broward County Courthouse. They had to close it down for two weeks after the wreckage. Hurricane Katrina, which had occurred in New Orleans, overshadowed the devastating effects of Wilma. With Katrina getting most of the attention, Florida was neglected by emergency services, and Wilma was left in the dark.
Hurricane Wilma was the most severe tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin and the second most intense tropical cyclone recorded in the Western Hemisphere after Hurricane Patricia in 2015. The hurricane also caused widespread significant damage to the sugarcane and citrus plantations, which in turn caused economic hardship.
5. Hurricane Michael (2018) — $25.5 Billion in Damages.
In 2018, Hurricane Michael, characterized by winds that moved at speeds up to 160 mph, devastated Florida and became the most powerful storm to reach the Florida panhandle and the southwestern United States. It wreaked severe damage on the Mexico beach area, and Panama City Beach, causing 25.5 billion dollars in damages.
Hurricane Michael beat Hurricane Andrew in terms of powerful wind speed, and as of 2018, it became the strongest tropical cyclone in the world. It is also the third strongest Atlantic hurricane that ever made landfall in the US in terms of wind speed. In total, about 51 people lost their lives.
Beyond the damage from the winds, the hurricane brought a massive storm surge to coastal areas, which engulfed several communities and caused widespread flooding. The storm surge from Hurricane Michael was as high as 14 feet in some areas. The hurricane winds flattened several homes and businesses. Many of them had no power for months, even after the storm.
And there you have it. These are some of the worst hurricanes Florida has had in its tumultuous weather history. These storms resulted in severe damage to properties, coupled with unprecedented amounts of destruction. They left many families homeless and without essential supplies for several days.
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