While Florida is famously known for its reputation as America’s number one tourist destination, it also has a grizzly natural disaster history. From tornadoes to hurricanes, Florida’s geography brings just as many storms as Spring Breakers. While there have been too many storms to count, here are the top five most catastrophic natural disasters that have happened in Florida.
1) The Great Miami Hurricane
This hurricane is considered to be one of the world’s earliest devastating storms. In 1926 a 150-mph wind hurricane struck Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hallandale, and Dania. This storm also caused damage in the Bahamas and Gulf Coast, ultimately leaving the unprepared United States with $100 million dollars in debt. The storm killed 372 people in Miami, 17 on the islands, and another 300 near Lake Okeechobee.
In 1928, Okeechobee would ultimately be affected again by an even more massive storm, killing an estimate of 4,078 people when the storm crossed over the lake, destroyed a dam, and flooded more than 2,000 homes.
2) Hurricane Irma
This hurricane holds the record for the most intense storm to ever hit the Atlantic coast with 180-mph winds. Irma caused immense damage over its two-week journey, causing 52 fatalities and $64 billion dollars in damages. By the time Irma reached the Virgin Island, it caused 134 deaths.
Preparation for Irma was swift with many Florida residents temporarily abandoning their homes and moving towards safety up state, which prevented many fatalities.
3) Hurricane Andrew
This Category 5 hurricane was considered to be the second most costly storm in American history until Irma reclaimed the record in 2017. While the storm only killed 23 people, it caused $25 billion dollars in damages. This storm destroyed over 730,000 houses, stores, shopping centers, boardwalks, and airfields.
Andrew is remembered for being the biggest storm of its time, and it helped to encourage Floridians to prepare as much as possible for future storms.
4) Groundhog Day Tornado Outbreak
Florida is known more for its hurricanes, but several infamous tornadoes have struck the state. On February 2, 2007 a combination of high early morning temperatures and a powerful jet stream amassed not one but four tornadoes in Central Florida. Although relatively contained, these storms took the lives of 21 people and injured 76, also leaving a massive and unexpected $218 million total in damages.
Although low in deaths in comparison to the 1998 Kissimmee outbreak, the damages and long-term effects were devastating as these tornadoes completely ripped homes from their foundations.
Nationwide attention went towards offering relief to the area, with The Salvation Army and Feed the Children extending their efforts to help revitalize the population in Sumter County, Lake County, and New Smyrna Beach.
5) 1998 Forest Wildfires
The 1998 Wildfires forced 100,000 in northeast Florida to evacuate their homes, and residents of Seminole county and Orlando were also ordered to flee. While no deaths were reported, the wildfires spread throughout Florida and caused several dozen injuries and emergency room visits. From Memorial Day to July 1998, these fires burned an estimate of 500,000 acres and caused $600 million dollars in damages.
These five storms are just some of Florida’s most notable disasters that have destroyed homes, claimed deaths, and forced evacuation. For Florida residents living in any county it’s possible to be hit with any type of storm, and it’s important to be prepared for the worst. For a hurricane, tornado, or forest fire, taking preventative measures and evacuating is key for protecting your family and property.
In the aftermath of an unavoidable storm, call a company that specializes in property restoration. Even if the damage is just light winds in Orlando, or sewage flooded Fort Lauderdale streets, it’s important not to try to fix a storm’s damage on your own – let storm repair professionals get your home back on its feet, and no matter what, never assume you can fight a storm!