History's Most Devastating Natural Disasters
Natural disasters can occur without warning, as is the case with earthquakes and tsunamis. Other natural disasters are the result of weather, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding. Thanks to modern science, it may be possible to predict a natural disaster such as a hurricane in advance, giving people some time to evacuate before the event occurs. Other times, residents have only moments to seek shelter. In ancient times, weather prediction was impossible, which typically resulted in mass casualties from storms. History's most devastating natural disasters illustrate the amazing power of atmospheric conditions and Earth's geology.
- Central China Flood: The Central China Flood in 1931 occurred when several major rivers flooded, killing up to 2 million people and affecting about 52 million people.
- 20 Largest Earthquakes in the World: The strongest earthquake recorded occurred in 1960 in Chile and had a magnitude of 9.5. Known as the Valdivia Earthquake, this natural disaster lasted ten minutes and also resulted in a tsunami.
- World's Largest Recorded Earthquake: The Valdivia Earthquake happened on the ocean floor off the coast of Chile, and estimates indicate that about 2 million people lost their homes in this disaster.
- The Deadliest Volcanic Eruption in History: Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, killing about 100,000 people immediately and many more in the subsequent years as a result of secondary effects of the volcano.
- Top 11 Deadliest Natural Disasters in History: Earthquake magnitudes and death tolls from ancient times are uncertain, but the Aleppo Earthquake death toll in 1138 is estimated to have been approximately 230,000.
- The Deadliest Avalanche (video): An avalanche occurred in 1970 on Mount Huascaran, decimating the town of Yungay and killing about 18,000 people.
- Our Greatest Natural Disasters: In 1925, a tornado touched down near Ellington, Missouri. This deadly twister cut a 219-mile course through three states, killing 695 people.
- More Than a Century Later, This Texas Hurricane Remains America's Deadliest Natural Disaster: Known as the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, this deadly hurricane killed at least 8,000 people.
- Disasters in U.S. History That Left the Nation in Peril: The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 resulted in the deaths of about 3,400 people and decimated an estimated 80 percent of the city.
- Alaska's Powerful Earthquakes: A fault line runs through Alaska, resulting in frequent and powerful earthquakes. In 2002, the Denali Fault Earthquake had a magnitude of 7.9.
- New Madrid Earthquakes, 1811-12: The New Madrid fault line cuts through the center of the United States, resulting in periodic earthquakes. The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 were three separate earthquakes that happened within about three months, actually causing the Mississippi River to flow backward for a short time.
- The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Hurricanes from 1900 to 2000 (PDF): Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a category 4 hurricane that hit Florida, resulting in more than $25 billion in damages.
- Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones: Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones are storm systems that gain strength over warm ocean waters, producing violent and dangerous winds and rain.
- Monster Hurricanes Reached U.S. During Prehistoric Periods of Ocean Warming: Evidence suggests that very intense storms hit the East Coast of the United States frequently in prehistoric periods.
- Hurricanes in Florida: Florida is in the path of hurricanes that result from westerly winds moving westward off the coast of Africa, gathering energy as they move through warm ocean waters.
- The Deadliest Tsunami in History: On Dec. 26, 2004, an earthquake occurred that spurred the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami. This natural disaster was responsible for mass casualties and the loss of homes for millions of people.
- History's Deadliest Tsunami: In 1883, Krakatau Volcano exploded, resulting in tsunamis in the Indian Ocean that killed more than 36,000 people.
- The Ten Most Destructive Tsunamis in History: The top two tsunamis occurred in 2004 and 2011, and the third most devastating tsunami occurred in 1755 in Lisbon, Portugal, after an 8.5-magnitude earthquake.
- The Ten Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes in History: The second most deadly tornado in U.S. history occurred in 1840, known as the Natchez Tornado that killed 317 people in Louisiana and Mississippi.
- The Deadliest Tornado in the World: The most deadly tornado in the world occurred in 1989 in Bangladesh. This tornado killed about 1,300 people and injured about 12,000 more.
- The 25 Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes: In 1896, the third most deadly tornado to occur in the United States hit St. Louis. This tornado killed 255 people and injured about 1,000.
- Deadliest Eruption: In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted, with ash affecting temperatures around the world for the next year.
- The Top Ten Deadliest Earthquakes in History: An earthquake occurred in Shensi, China, in 1556, resulting in the deaths of about 830,000 people.
- Timeline: World's 14 Deadliest Earthquakes of the Last Decade: About 369 people died in 2017 when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake occurred in central Mexico.
- Al Roker Writes About the Deadliest Flood in American History: The Johnstown Flood happened in 1889 in Central Pennsylvania, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,200 people as flood waters surged through the Conemaugh Valley.
- Flooding: Our Nation's Most Frequent and Costly Natural Disaster (PDF): Floods often happen in conjunction with hurricanes, but they can also occur with heavy rains and during spring thaws.
- Earthquake History of the Bay Area: The recorded history of earthquakes in the Bay Area dates back to 1836 with a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that occurred in the south San Francisco Bay region.
- Historical Earthquakes: In 1868, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake occurred on the Hayward Fault, causing significant damage in both San Francisco and San Jose.
- Significant California Earthquakes: Earthquakes in California have been recorded since 1700, resulting in localized damage as well as tsunamis in Japan.
By: Steven Moore