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History of Florida Hurricanes Since 1559 -10 Worst Florida Hurricanes

History of Florida Hurricanes By Year

Florida has a tropical climate that has led to an active history of Florida hurricanes. Certain weather phenomena have an impact on the number and intensity of Florida hurricane history. The list of the worst hurricanes to hit Florida follows the list of Florida hurricanes by date.

What Causes Hurricanes?

In the history of Florida hurricanes we have the list of the 10 worst hurricanes
Another hurricane headed to Florida and it may make our list of the worst hurricanes to hit Florida.

When sea-surface temperatures are above average by about 1 degree Fahrenheit or more, El Niño can develop. When sea temperatures are below average, La Niña can form. When temperatures are at or near average neither develops. This is called ENSO-neutral.

How do El Niño and La Niña affect the Atlantic Hurricane season?

The chances for the eastern continental U.S., Florida and the Caribbean Islands to experience a hurricane substantially increase during La Niña and decrease during El Niño.

Despite the statement above, not all hurricanes and weather follow the patterns outlined. Statistically, the La Nina and El Nino effects are accurate until exceptions occur.

How Many Hurricanes have Hit Florida?

While Florida hurricanes are thousands of years old, accurate weather information is limited to the last couple of centuries.

The descriptions of many storms, mainly by mariners, go back hundreds of years. Many may or may not be the classic definition of a hurricane. Little specific data exists for Florida prior to the 16th century, since most of the population was in north Florida.

Forty percent of all hurricanes that form hit Florida and 62 occurred in the twentieth century.

We will restrict ourselves to information beginning in 1559. Reports prior to that time are difficult to determine the strength and intensity of storms. Accurate measurements were not reliably available until the early 20th century.

Our list below details the major hurricanes that significantly impacted Florida. Some Florida hurricanes have come close to Florida’s shores causing high winds, but not of hurricane velocity.

Chronological History of Florida Hurricanes

The Florida hurricanes listed by year include the ones that impacted Florida in various ways. The hurricane list includes the hurricanes in Florida’s history that actually changed history.

List of Florida Hurricanes By Year

1559 – In September 1559, a Florida hurricane ripped through the Gulf and destroyed the Spanish settlement in Pensacola. Conquistador, Tristan de Luna, had convinced the King of Spain that Pensacola was the best port in the “Indies”. The colony was abandoned two years later due to the storm’s destruction.

1599 – Storm surge, presumed to be a hurricane, swept over St. Augustine killing numerous residents, knocking down homes, and “Majesty’s supplies was destroyed”.

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1622 – In September 1622 a hurricane in the Atlantic spread havoc across the Keys as well as shipping in the straits of Florida. One of the casualties of this storm was the Spanish galleon Atocha made famous when Mel Fisher of Key West discovered the wreckage worth millions.

1752 – On November 3, 1752, a hurricane struck Santa Rosa Island in the panhandle. It destroyed all the buildings on the island except the hospital.

1760 – An August 1760 hurricane hits Pensacola destroying a significant part of the stockade and tearing roofs from most of the houses.

1811- The hurricane of Oct. 5, 1811, in St. Augustine, was especially damaging. Hurricanes had struck here in 1804 and 1806 as well. Rebuilding the city was frustrating for the settlers. Many deserted or migrated inland.

1841 – Hurricane destroys Fort Dulany at Punta Rassa (near Ft. Myers) on the Caloosahatchee River.

1896 – Cedar Keys Hurricane of 1896 on September 29th destroys Atsena Otie, an island that was the original Cedar Key. The storm surge damaged the Eberhard Faber plant so badly it never reopened. The island is now a national refuge. This storm changed the economic base of Cedar Key from pencil-making to dependence on commercial fishing.

1919 – The storm known as the Florida Keys 1919 Hurricane hit the islands running westward parallel to the Keys. It passed Key West on September 9, 1919 with winds reaching 150 MPH. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

list of worst hurricanes to hit Florida include Miami 1926
Despite land speculators’ claim that Miami was safe, the 1926 hurricane proved them wrong and ended the land boom.

1926 – On September 18, 1926, the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a hurricane with winds up to 150 miles per hour hit Dade county (Miami) killing 400 people. The first building codes in Florida were established after this storm. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1928 – 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane is named that because the September 17, 1928, storm killed an estimated 2500 people after Lake Okeechobee flooded the entire area. This hurricane was the deadliest ever in Florida and the second deadliest in the history of the United States. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

History of Florida hurricanes with 1935 Labor Day storm
The 1935 Labor Day hurricane destroyed the Overseas Railway and the economy of the Keys. As perhaps the worst Florida hurricane ever, Over 400 people died.

1935 – On September 2, Labor Day, 1935, a hurricane raced through the Keys with winds near 185 MPH. Over 400 workmen on Flagler’s Overseas Railroad were killed. The railroad never ran again, selling the right of way to the state of Florida. This storm also impacted Ernest Hemingway and his writing. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1936 – On September 16, 1936, a Hurricane ripped through Palm Beach flooding Lake Okeechobee and killing almost 2000 people. This was the second deadly occurrence of flooding from the lake.

1945 – The Homestead hurricane was on September 15, 1945. Key Largo took a direct hit with winds in excess of 145 MPH. Four people died in the aftermath. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1947 – The Fort Lauderdale hurricane of September 16, 1947 was a category 4 hurricane at 145 MPH. As it hit Florida’s east coast and raced across the state. The storm killed 34 people and the damages on Florida’s west coast as it exited the state were significant with flooding in the Tampa Bay area. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1948 – A hurricane hit Florida near Boca Chica in the Florida Keys on September 21, 1948 as a Category 2 hurricane. It strengthened after leaving the Keys and hit on the peninsula of Florida near Chokoloskee the next day as a Category 3 hurricane with 145 MPH winds. Crop damages along with the destruction of several hundred buildings were a result. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1949 –The Delray Beach Hurricane hit the eastern coast of Florida with 130 MPH winds on August 26, 1949. Landing near Fort Worth the storm ripped north along the beaches from Miami to St. Augustine with hurricane-force winds. Estimates of over $50 million in damages were reported. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1950 – Hurricane Easy was the first of two major hurricanes of the 1950 Atlantic hurricane season. Landing on September 5, 1950, the storm lingered causing waves to batter Florida’s coastline from Homosassa to the panhandle.

1950 – Little known Hurricane King landed in downtown Miami on October 18, 1950. This was the sixth hurricane of the season, and it was the worst Florida hurricane of the year with 130 MPH wind. There were 4 fatalities. Damages included crops throughout south Florida which were estimated at $30 million. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

When did the weather service start naming hurricanes?

In 1953 the weather service started giving hurricanes female names. That ended in 1978 when both male and female names began being used. The history of naming hurricanes is here.

1960 – Hurricane Donna hit the Florida peninsula on September 10, 1960 after going through the Keys near Naples. 13 deaths and $300 million in damageses were attributed to Donna. Winds were estimated at 145 MPH. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1965 – Hurricane Betsy was a destructive hurricane that brought widespread damage to areas of Florida. Landing on September 8,1965, Betsy battered the Florida Keys and the storm surge flooded the islands, and cut off the only road through the Keys. It was the strongest storm in the Keys since 1926.

1966 – Hurricane Alma landed on June 13, 1966, near Apalachee Bay (St. Marks, Florida). It was a rare (and the most recent) June major hurricane in the 1966 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the earliest Atlantic hurricane in the calendar year in fifteen years, as well as the earliest continental U.S. hurricane strike since 1825.

1975 – Hurricane Eloise was the most destructive hurricane of the 1975 Atlantic hurricane season landing on September 24, 1975 near Panama City, Florida.

1992 – Hurricane Andrew pounded south Florida on August 24, 1992. As the worst Florida hurricane to date, 65,000 homes were destroyed and 175,000 people were left homeless in this Category 5 storm. Only four category 5 hurricanes had hit the continental United States at this time. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

1995 – Hurricane Elena blasted the western Florida gulf coast for days beginning on August 30, 1985. Elena was unique in the fact it never made landfall in Florida but remained just offshore battering the coastline with wind and waves. The flooding, erosion, and beaches were hammered by this lingering Category 3 hurricane.

List of Hurricanes in Florida includes many Pensacola landing
Pensacola has had many hurricane encounters that spare nothing in their path. Houses, vehicles and trees suffer equally.

1995 – Hurricane Opal was a large and powerful Category 4 hurricane that caused severe and extensive damage along the northern Florida Gulf Coast after landing on October 4 1995, near Pensacola with 120 MPH winds.

2004 – Hurricane Charley hit the Dry Tortugas on August 13, 2004. Charley was epic for two reasons. It was one of four hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004. It was also the only hurricane to hit at the same time in Florida as another hurricane was also in Florida – Bonnie was in north Florida. Many people in southwest Florida were caught unprepared for Charley because it was forecast to hit Tampa on the west coast of Florida, but it intensified and turned into southwest Florida. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

2004 – On September 5, 2004, Hurricane Frances struck Hutchinson Island near Stuart, Florida with 120 MPH winds. The storm cut across central Florida in a path that will be mimicked three weeks later by hurricane Jeanne.

2004 – Hurricane Ivan battered the panhandle near Pensacola on September 16, 2004. What made Ivan so dangerous was the breadth of the wind field and its slow-moving path. It was a category 3 but was degraded to a 2.

2004 – Hurricane Jeanne struck Hutchinson Island near Stuart, Florida on September 25, 2004. Jeanne was the fourth hurricane of the year. Jeanne also landed within a couple of miles of where hurricane Frances hit less than three weeks earlier. Winds achieved 120 MPH as the storm raced across Florida.

2005 – Hurricane Dennis pummels the panhandle with Category 3 winds on July 10, 2005. Landing on Santa Rosa Island in the panhandle, the storm was narrow and fast. The damage was moderated in Florida as compared to Ivan the previous year that also landed in the panhandle.

Irma 2017 was devastating to the Keys on the list of Florida hurricanes
The Florida Keys were decimated by Irma in 2017. Piles of debris (people’s homes and furnishings) lined Rt. 1 into the Keys.

2017 – Hurricane Irma struck with a vengeance on September 10, 2017. The eye of the storm passed over Cudjoe Key midway between Key West and Marathon, Florida. Many of the homes along Route 1 in the Keys were totally destroyed with Category 3 winds. Piles of debris line the highway a year later indicating the problem of getting damages out of the Keys. After the Keys Irma landed on Marco Island. At one point there were 7.7 million homes and businesses without power. There were 84 deaths attributed to Irma. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

2018 – On October 10, 2018, hurricane Michael attacked the panhandle with winds of 160 MPH. The storm was the worst Florida hurricane to hit the contiguous United States since 1992 (Andrew). Estimated damage to the United States was $25 billion. The beach towns along Rt. 98 got the brunt of the storm. Mexico Beach sustained nearly 80 percent total destruction of beachfront homes along with major roads being washed out. As of our visit in late 2023, Mexico Beach is still rebuilding. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

Ft. Myers beach hurricane Ian List of Florida Hurricanes
Hurricane Ian delivered the worst hurricane in Florida’s history from an economic perspective. Ft. Myers beach was destroyed along with many other areas of the southwest Gulf coast,

2022 – Hurricane Ian hit Florida on September 28, 2022. This was the worst Florida hurricane since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that came through the Keys. Ian was a direct hit on the island of Cayo Costa just north of Ft. Myers. The storm surge literally wiped out much of Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel island. Winds were deadly 150 miles per hour, but the main damage came from the surge of water that hit the barrier islands. Ian is the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history of hurricanes with damages estimated at the time of this writing at $50 billion. Deaths from Ian were 148 at this time. One of the Strongest in the History of Hurricanes in Florida

2023 – On August 30, 2023, Hurricane Idalia reached the “Big Bend” area of Florida near Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach, as a category 3 hurricane.

The storm originated in the Caribbean and became a hurricane moving north on August 26th. The storm stayed offshore of Florida’s west coast for several days. It reaches category 4 briefly prior to the direct hit in the Big Bend.

Flooding and some wind damage occurred in Florida from the Venice area northward. Most damage came as a result of flooding rather than winds. We traveled through the impacted area two weeks later and found significant wind damage in and around Perry, Florida. 

We will update the post when more detailed information about damage valuation is reached.

The 10 Worst Hurricanes to Hit Florida

The term worst is difficult to define. Is it the strongest hurricane to hit Florida? Is it the hurricane in Florida that killed the most people? Is the worst Florida hurricane the one that did the most property damage? All of the answers to the question, What is the worst hurricane to hit Florida?, are different.

The list of the 10 worst hurricanes to ever hit Florida cover all of the scenarios, damages, wind speeds and all the questions about the worst Florida hurricane.

   

Windspeed

 
 

Name (if named)

Year

MPH

KM

 

1

“Labor Day”

1935

185

295

 

2

Andrew

1992

165

270

 

3

Michael

2018

160

260

 

4

“Florida Keys”

1919

150

240

 

Charley

2004

 

Ian

2022

 

7

“Miami”

1926

145

230

 

“Okeechobee”

1928

 

Donna

1960

 

10

“Homestead”

1945

130

215

 

“Fort Lauderdale”

1947

 

“Florida”

1948

 

“Florida”

1949

 

King

1950

 

Irma

2017

 

Source: HURDAT,[5] Hurricane

Research Division,[10] NHC[14]

Hurricane Ian Sets Records

Ian on list of worst hurricanes to hit Florida
This former 7/11 store on Ft. Myers Beach is one of the very few buildings left standing despite the fact it is totally destroyed.

It should be noted that the last hurricane to hit Florida, Hurricane Ian on September 28, 2022, set several unfortunate milestones.

  • Ian damages are estimated, as of this time, to be $57 billion – it could go higher since the southwest Florida coast is still digging out.
  • Ian had record damaging storm surges of up to 15 feet that literally moved houses off their foundations and they fell apart.
  • The 150 MPH winds of Ian were the highest sustained velocity to hit southwest Florida ever.
  • Ian’s destruction forced the state of Florida to provide immediate assistance in numbers never seen before.
  • Ian has the designation of the worst Florida hurricane.

Of the list of the worst hurricanes to hit Florida, we don’t want to see another Ian land anywhere. Ian will not be the last in our history of Florida hurricanes. We continue to hope there will never be another worst hurricane to hit Florida!

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