1. The Great Galveston Storm of 1900

This barrier island along the gulf coast was home to millionaires and large elaborate mansions sprawling the coastline. The highest point of elevation being 8.7 feet above sea level, the community is ripe for devastation from a hurricane.

In the year 1900, this area was struck with a horrendous hurricane that would ultimately destroy the entirety of the community and kill an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people.


An example of a building that was completely uprooted from its foundation and thrown on its side from the hurricane that impacted the town of Galveston.

  1. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

The infamous San Francisco Earthquake and subsequent fire that ravaged the city on April 18th, 1906 will forever be a reminder of the type of destruction that could result from an earthquake.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake that rattled the San Andreas Fault leveled more than 28,000 buildings and killed an estimated 3,000 people. The fire that was caused by this earthquake burned approximately 500 city blocks worth of buildings and continued to burn for nearly 3 days. Extinguishing this fire was nearly impossible as the water pipes throughout the city were ruptured, halting the fire crews’ water supply.

Earthquake, Structure Fire

The buildings in this image were impacted by the initial 1906 earthquake of San Francisco, then burned in the aftermath.


  1. The Johnstown Flood

In 1889, near Johnstown in central Pennsylvania, a dam that was containing Lake Conemaugh broke delivering a tsunami-like wave of water hurtling towards the town.

In a matter of minutes this dam failure wiped 1,600 homes off their foundations and down stream, and a total of 2,209 people were dead.

Dam Failure

This is what Main Street Johnstown looked like after the dam failure washed away a huge portion of the town.

  1. The Peshtigo Fire

 The Peshtigo Fire started on October 8th, 1871, the same day as the great Chicago fire. The fires ravaged a staggering 1.5 million acres of drought stricken vegetation throughout the Midwest.

When the events were over and the smoke had settled, an estimated 2500 people had perished from the blazed.

  1. Hurricane Maria

The initial damage and reported lives lost from preliminary inspections gave US citizens hope that the damages from this hurricane would not be too severe, but this was a terrible mistake.

In the months following, Harvard public health researchers that visited the island chain challenged the number of 64 deaths. These individuals conducted a survey of nearly 3,299 individual households throughout the community. The resulting “excess death” count was totaled at 4,645 making Maria the second deadliest hurricane in US history behind the Galveston Storm.

Hurricane Maria

This satellite image shows the concentration of Hurricane Maria over Puerto Rico.

*There is wide variation in death estimates for this specific hurricane. We chose to use the estimate published in the New England Journal of Medicine that was done in the aftermath.





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