Hurricane Irene, which strengthened to a Category 3 storm on Wednesday morning, is looking more and more like it will hit the U.S. East Coast by the end of this week. Forecasters predict the storm, which already made landfall in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola and is currently swirling over the southeast Bahamas, could strengthen to a dangerous Category 4 in the next 24 hours. In honor of Irene - which experts predict will be the first hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2008 - we've decided to reflect on some other memorable storms that have pounded the U.S. over the past century.
1. The Great Galveston Hurricane,1900
Popularly known as the Hurricane of 1900, this epic storm, which ravaged the city of Galveston, Texas, is still the deadliest natural disaster to have ever hit the nation. The Category 4 storm reached the Texas coast on Sept 8. with estimated wind speeds of 145 miles per hour and a storm surge of 8 to 15 feet. Due to poor planning and unreliable weather reports, few people evacuated across Galveston's bridges to the mainland, resulting in between 8,000 and 12,000 deaths.
2. Okeechobee Hurricane, 1928
Also known as the San Felipe Segundo hurricane, the tropical storm - only the second to reach Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale - completely destroyed parts of the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Florida in September 1928. In South Florida, at least 2,500 people were killed after a storm surge from Lake Okeechobee breached the dike surrounding the lake, flooding hundreds of square miles of land.
3. Hurricane Camille, 1969
Formed on Aug. 14, Hurricane Camille still reached the highest wind speed at landfall to date - 190 miles per hour - when it struck the Mississippi coast on the night of Aug. 17. Also a Category 5 storm, Camille caused damage and destruction across much of the Gulf Coast and directly killed 143 people in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. In addition, the storm caused catastrophic flooding in Nelson County, Virginia, resulting in another 153 deaths.
Camille is also famous due to talks of a Hurricane Party that supposedly took place in the Richelieu Manor Apartments in Pass Christian, Miss., as it made landfall. The hurricane flooded and demolished the building, leaving only one survivor to tell the story. In 1974, ABC released a made-for-TV movie called Hurricane, based on the event.
4. Hurricane Andrew, 1992
The third Category 5 storm to make landfall in the U.S., Andrew was the first named storm and only major hurricane to form during the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season. Although it struck part of the Bahamas and Louisiana, the brunt of the storm was focused in Homestead, Fla., causing a total of $26.5 billion in damage, $25.5 billion of which occurred in south Florida. With wind speeds of 167 miles per hour, Andrew also had the second-highest recorded wind speeds at landfall on record. While the powerful hurricane only caused 23 U.S. deaths, it damaged or destroyed about 117,000 homes in Dade County, Fla. and knocked down 25 percent of the trees in the Everglades.
5. Hurricane Katrina, 2005
Although it was only a Category 3 storm when it landed in southeast Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina caused more than $100 million in damages - the costliest to date - and was the third deadliest storm on record with about 1,500 fatalities. When Katrina initially made landfall in Florida it had barely reached Category 1 status, and soon strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico before it made landfall again near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi. The most significant number of deaths occurred in New Orleans, which was inundated with massive floods after its levee system failed, flooding about 80 percent of the city and large sections of neighboring parishes.