Which U.S. state experiences the most hurricanes?

Florida has been hit by almost twice as many hurricanes as the next hurricane-prone state. But in recent years, Texas and Louisiana have suffered the most destructive tropical storm damage.

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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Which states have the most hurricanes?

A total of 301 hurricanes have hit 19 U.S. states since 1851, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [1] No state has experienced more hurricanes during that span than Florida.

The Sunshine State has been hit by 120 hurricanes since the inception of the Saffir-Simpson wind scale. For context, Florida has seen almost twice as many hurricanes as Texas, the second-most hurricane ravaged state, in the nearly 175 years of NOAA record-keeping.

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Every Atlantic and Gulf Coast state experienced a landfall hurricane, according to NOAA data. As you can see in the map above, states south of the Mason-Dixon line have been on the receiving end of most of those direct hits, accounting for 87% of all landfall hurricanes since 1851.

But just because a hurricane doesn’t make landfall doesn’t mean it can’t cause catastrophic damage to areas within its reach.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, intensified to a Category 3 storm (winds between 111 and 129 mph). However, by the time it reached Maryland, New Jersey and New York — the states where Sandy inflicted the most damage — it had already “weakened” to a tropical storm. Sandy caused around $20 billion in damage to 16 states.

States where major hurricanes hit the most

Of the 301 hurricanes that have made landfall in the U.S. since 1851, 31% have been major hurricanes (Category 3 or greater). When a hurricane's maximum sustained wind speed reaches at least 111, it officially becomes a major hurricane.

While Florida's 37 major hurricanes are nearly double that of Texas, Mississippi has the highest proportion of major hurricanes in the United States. Almost 43% of Mississippi's 14 landfall hurricanes since 1851 have been major storms.

Rank

State

Category 1

Category 2

Category 3

Category 4

Category 5

Major hurricanes

All hurricanes

-

Entire Atlantic & Gulf Coast

123

86

62

26

4

92

301

1

Florida

47

36

24

11

2

37

120

2

Texas

29

16

12

7

0

19

64

3

Louisiana

24

20

13

4

1

18

62

4

North Carolina

32

19

6

1

0

7

58

5

South Carolina

17

9

2

3

0

5

31

6

Alabama

12

6

5

0

0

5

23

7

Georgia

14

4

2

1

0

3

21

8

New York

9

3

3

0

0

3

15

9

Mississippi

3

5

5

0

1

6

14

10

Virginia

11

2

0

0

0

0

13

11

Massachusetts

7

4

1

0

0

1

12

12

Connecticut

7

2

2

0

0

2

11

13

Rhode Island

5

2

3

0

0

3

10

14

New Jersey

4

0

0

0

0

0

4

15

Maine

2

1

0

0

0

0

3

16

Maryland

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

17

Delaware

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

18

Pennsylvania

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

19

New Hampshire

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

Top 10 states with the most hurricanes

1. Florida: 120 hurricanes

The most hurricane-prone state in the country is Florida, a state that has been hit with 120 hurricanes since 1851, with 37 of those being classified as major. Although Florida hasn’t been hit with as many destructive hurricanes in recent years as some of its southern neighbors, the Sunshine State has seen many of the most deadly storms in history. Hurricane Andrew, a major hurricane that made landfall on August 24th, 1992, is the second most recent Category 5 to make landfall in the contiguous U.S. The major storm took out more than 25,000 homes in Florida alone, single-handedly forcing the residential home insurance sector to overhaul how it insures homes on the Atlantic coast. [2]

→ Take a deeper dive into hurricane season in Florida

2. Texas: 64 hurricanes

With 64 total hurricanes, 19 of which are major, Texas trails only Florida in hurricane frequency. Before 2017, the last major hurricane to strike the Texas coast was Celia back on August 3rd, 1970. But on August 25th, 2017, that changed when Hurricane Harvey hit the middle of the Texas coast. The Category 4 storm had actually weakened to a tropical depression before rapidly escalating into a major hurricane. Hurricane Harvey is one of the most devastating hurricanes in recorded history, causing around $125 billion in damages with a bulk of the destruction due to flooding after the hurricane. [3]

→ Take a deeper dive into hurricane season in Texas

3. Louisiana: 62 hurricanes

Aside from Florida, perhaps no state has been hit with more expensive and deadly storms than Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was by far the most destructive, killing almost 1,600 Pelican State residents and causing approximately $108 billion in damage. Since Katrina, Louisiana has been hit by seven hurricanes, including one major storm. [4]

→ Take a deeper dive into hurricane season in Louisiana

4. North Carolina: 58 hurricanes

With 58 landfall hurricanes, North Carolina is the fourth most hurricane-prone state in the country. The Tar Heel state has experienced 7 major hurricanes, with the most destructive being Hurricane Hazel in 1954. The Category 4 tropical cyclone produced a storm surge of over 18 feet, killing 19 and inflicting $163 million in damages to the Carolinas. [5]

→ Take a deeper dive into hurricane season in North Carolina

5. South Carolina: 31 hurricanes

Just north of Georgia, South Carolina has a slightly longer stretch of coastline and has therefore experienced a few more direct tropical storm hits than its southern neighbor. Of the 31 landfall hurricanes South Carolina has experienced, five have been classified as major, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Hugo made landfall just north of Charleston as a Category 4 (wind gusts between 131–156 mph), producing the highest storm tide heights ever recorded along the U.S. East Coast and causing nearly $7 billion in damage. [6]

→ Take a deeper dive into hurricane season in South Carolina

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6. Alabama: 23 hurricanes

Similar to Mississippi, Alabama has a small stretch of coastline (53 miles) but has nevertheless managed to see the 6th most hurricanes of any U.S. state. Also known for its land-based cyclones, Alabama also sees its share of hurricane warnings once hurricane season rolls around. Bama has been directly hit by 23 hurricanes since 1851, five of which have been Category 3 or higher.

→ Take a deeper dive into hurricane season in Alabama

7. Georgia: 21 hurricanes

With 21 hurricanes, three of which have been classified as major, Georgia experiences the 7th most hurricanes in the country. The most recent hit was Hurricane Michael in 2018, a hurricane that reached the Florida panhandle as a Category 5 (peak winds of 160 mph) but had weakened to a Category 2 by the time it hit the Peach State.

8. New York: 15 hurricanes

New York is the last northern state in the top 10, as it has suffered 15 direct hits from hurricanes, three of which have been Category 3 or higher. The most infamous in recent memory was Hurricane Sandy in 2012, one of the most expensive natural disasters ever. Sandy never officially made landfall in New York, but it did have hurricane-force winds by the time it arrived in the Big Apple on October 28th. The storm’s wind gusts were around 80 mph in parts of the New York Metropolitan area, all but shutting down the Tri-state area for months. [7]

9. Mississippi: 14 hurricanes

With 14 hurricanes, six of which have been major, Mississippi is the 89th most hurricane-prone state in the country. Keep in mind that the Magnolia State only has 44 miles of coastline (second least of any state south of the Mason-Dixon line) so although Mississippi may not see many direct hits, it still experiences its share of tropical storms.

10. Virginia: 13 hurricanes

Virginia has been been hit with 13 hurricanes in recorded history, but is the only state in the top ten that hasn't experienced a major landfall hurricane. Even though a major tropical cyclone is yet to reach its coastline, Virginia has seen its share of devastating hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 made landfall as a Category 2 near Cape Lookout in North Carolina, before entering Virginia as a Category 1. Despite its weakened condition, Hurricane Isabel's strong winds and storm surge still managed to devastate the southeastern portion of the state and cause billions of dollars in damage to the state. The National Weather Service named it among the most significant hurricanes to hit the region since 1933's Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane. [8]

→ How to prepare for a hurricane: 9 things to do TODAY

What is a hurricane?

Now you may be asking yourself, what even is a hurricane? What separates a hurricane from, say, a tropical storm? Well, you came to the right place.

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone that forms when water warms up to around 80 degrees near the equator. Around spring and early summer, when the water gets warmer in the Northern Hemisphere, it turns into moist air and rises, creating what is called a low-pressure system. (Think of low pressure as clouds, precipitation, and heavy winds that spin counterclockwise inward, and high pressure as cool, dry air with calmer wind that flows clockwise outward.)

As the pressure difference between the highs and lows increases, the winds begin to pick up at the center, or “eye” (the lowest pressure area of the storm), forming a counterclockwise swirl of wind. This creates what is essentially an engine, gaining size and momentum as it moves through more warm water. Once the cyclone winds reach 74 miles per hour, it officially becomes a hurricane. The highest incidence of these storms, believe it or not, occurs during hurricane season (June 1–November 30), when the water is the warmest.

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Storm surge, not wind, is the most deadly

Storm surge, not wind, is the most dangerous component of a hurricane, according to the NOAA. [9] Storm surge is water that is pushed onto land by tropical storm winds — a major hurricane can create a surge of up to 20 feet high or more, causing severe flooding and extensive property damage after landfall occurs. It’s estimated that storm surge is responsible for half of hurricane-related fatalities. [10]

Storm surge is also one of the primary culprits of uninsured property loss, as many coastal area residents are without flood insurance because they incorrectly assume their home insurance covers hurricane-related flood damage.

As hurricanes continue to intensify in size and frequency due to climate change, it’s especially important for Gulf and Atlantic Coast homeowners to have flood coverage, a type of property insurance that can cost as little as $400 a year depending on where you live.

→ Find out how much hurricane insurance you need in 2022

About the data

The NOAA data cited in this story is specifically for Category 1 through 5 hurricanes that made landfall from 1851 to 2020. [11] Landfall is a shortened way of saying that the center of the storm reached the coast while the hurricane was still intact and hasn’t yet been downgraded to a tropical storm (winds of 39–73 mph) or tropical depression (winds of less than 39 mph).

Bear in mind it’s possible for the hurricane’s strongest winds to happen over land even if landfall doesn’t occur. On the flip side, it’s possible for a hurricane to make landfall and have its strongest winds over the water.

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References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    . "

    Hurricanes Frequently Asked Questions

    ." Accessed June 10, 2022.

  2. Swiss Re

    . "

    Hurricane Andrew: The 20 miles that saved Miami

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  3. National Weather Service

    . "

    August/September 2017 Hurricane Harvey

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  4. National Weather Service

    . "

    Hurricane Katrina - August 2005

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  5. National Weather Service

    . "

    Hurricane Hazel, October 15, 1954

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  6. National Weather Service

    . "

    Hurricane Hugo

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  7. New York City

    . "

    Sandy and Its Impacts

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  8. University of Louisville

    . "

    Hurricane Isabel, Atlantic Coast - 2003

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  9. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    . "

    Hurricanes

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  10. American Meteorological Society

    . "

    Fatalities in the United States from Atlantic Tropical Cyclones: New Data and Interpretation

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

  11. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    . "

    Hurricanes Frequently Asked Questions

    ." Accessed August 18, 2021.

Author

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Expert reviewer

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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