WASHINGTON (AP) -- The drama of hurricanes and tornadoes may get
more attention, but weather experts rate the 1930s Dust Bowl as the
worst U.S. weather event of the century.
Weatherwise magazine asked about 30 of its contributing writers
and editors to rate the worst weather of the last 100 years. The
dismal drought era led the list.
"More than any other weather or climate event, the 1930s
drought shaped American society," causing the legendary flight
from the plains, including Oklahoma, to California, forcing changes
in farm policy and compounding the Great Depression, the magazine
reports in its November-December issue.
"It is a very subjective list," admitted Weatherwise managing
editor Doyle Rice. But, he added, "We thought it would be a fun
way to finish off the century.
"These ten events were chosen not only for the devastation they
wrought upon human life and property, but also because they opened
doors for scientific discovery, changed our understanding of
meteorology and climatology, and tested the limits of our
technology," Rice said.
Second on the list was the Super Tornado Outbreak of April 3-4,
1974, that killed more than 300 people in a dozen states: Alabama,
Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North
Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
"Few other natural disasters in this country can eclipse the
Galveston (Texas) hurricane for sheer, focused horror," the
magazine observed in rating the Sept. 8, 1900, storm, which killed
at least 6,000 people and perhaps double that, as the third worst
A more recent event ranked fourth on the list, the superstorm of
March 12-15, 1993, that raked the coast from Florida to Maine,
shutting down every airport from Washington to Boston and, in
effect, shutting down many cities themselves.
Number five was the deadly Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925,
that killed more than 700 people on a path from Missouri to
Illinois and Indiana.
Hurricane Andrew of 1992 placed sixth for its massive
destruction both in South Florida and Louisiana.
Another powerful hurricane was seventh, Camille, which crashed
into the Gulf Coast the night of Aug. 17-18, 1969.
The great Mississippi River valley flood of 1927 was eighth on
the list, an event Weatherwise called "perhaps the most underrated
weather disaster of the century." Almost a million people were
evacuated because of the flood and the death toll may have been in
The El Nino phenomenon of 1997-98 that spawned unusual weather
across the country ranked ninth and it's counterpart -- La Nina -- is
still causing changes in storms affecting North America.
Tenth was the New England hurricane of Sept. 21, 1938, killing
nearly 600 people in the storm and the disastrous flooding that
In addition to its top 10, the magazine also listed seven
"honorable mention" disasters. They are the Midwest floods of
1993; heat wave and drought of 1988; the November 1950, "Storm of
the Century"; Florida keys hurricane of 1938; New England blizzard
of 1978; the cold, snowy winter of 1976-77; and the 1998 New
England ice storm.