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What are the worst hurricanes in the history of Florida?

As Hurricane Ian causes chaos on the state’s southwestern coast, we take a look at the most damaging storms to have struck the Sunshine State.

Biggest storms in Florida

On Wednesday a Category 4 storm named Hurricane Ian crashed into southwestern Florida, making landfall and bringing with it huge risks of flooding. Wind speeds of up to 150mph were recorded and more than one million people in Florida are thought to have lost power as a result.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had warned of an above-average hurricane season in 2022 and, after a quiet start, it seems like that prediction is coming to pass.

Hurricane Ian is currently rated as a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, the second-most serious categorisation. The NOAA explains that this means that “Catastrophic damage will occur” with power outages potentially lasting months.

Whether you rank hurricane severity in terms of the storm categorisation, amount of damage caused, or the number of people to lose their lives, Hurricane Ian looks set to be one of the worst to hit Florida.

Here are five other major hurricanes to have ravaged the Sunshine State…

Hurricane Andrew (1992)

South Miami-Dade County was hit with a Category 5 hurricane three decades ago, with winds of up to 165mph recorded and 15 people killed as a direct result of the storm. It is thought to have cost the state $25 billion in damages, the most costly in US history until Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Hurricane Charley (2004)

Florida’s Gulf Coast was struck with an unexpected Category 4 hurricane in 2004, first making landfall on the island of Cayo Costa. The storm caused around $6.8 billion in damage and nine people were killed.

Hurricane Wilma (2005)

Another Category 4 storm hit just a year later, striking southern areas of Florida and causing an estimated $20.6 billion in damages. Fortunately, despite the huge destruction only five people lost their lives as a direct result of the storm.

Hurricane Irma (2017)

Unlike the sudden impact of Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Irma tracked a slow and lengthy path through Florida, racking up an astonishing $50 billion in property damages. The extended period of heavy rainfall, flooding and powerful winds left 6.5 million people in the state with power, causing huge long-term disruption. A case in point: while only seven people were killed in the storm, another 80 are thought to have died as a result of the damage caused.

Hurricane Michael (2018)

Four years ago Hurricane Michael became the most powerful storm to reach the Florida panhandle, ranking as a Category 5 storm with winds of up to 160mph. There was severe damage in the Panama City Beach and Mexico Beach areas with seven Floridians losing their lives as a direct result, and another 43 deaths attributed to the hurricane.


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