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Hurricanes, the strongest of tropical storms, can destroy life and devastate entire communities. However, they can also form new ecosystems and bring life-giving water to areas that are otherwise too arid for human survival.

Hurricane Facts

  • The word "hurricane" comes from Huracan, the god of big winds and evil spirits once worshiped by the Maya people of Central America.
  • The Bhola Cyclone of 1970, in what is today’s Bangladesh, was the single deadliest weather-related disaster in history, with over 500,000 casualtie
  • The hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in 1900, was the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, which caused 20-foot floods and over 8,000 deaths.
  • In 2005, there were so many named hurricanes that letters of the Greek alphabet had to be used to name storms for the first time since storms began acquiring names in 1953.

Hurricane Images

This exhibition and its national tour were developed by The Field Museum, Chicago

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Hurricane Katrina

A satellite image reveals the eye of Hurricane Katrina at 10:15 a.m., August 29, 2005.

The formation of a hurricane is dependent upon the sun's heat and the earth's rotation. If all the conditions are right, these two ingredients can turn a simple thunderstorm into a fierce, swirling hurricane.

© NOAA ×


In September, 1900, a hurricane without a name destroyed Galveston, Texas killing an estimated 8,000 people and causing the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. There were no satellites in 1900, no radar, and no hurricane warning system like those we have today.

© Texas State Library and Archives Commission ×


Scientists prepare the world's first weather satellite, TIROS (or Television Infrared Observation Satellite), for its launch in April 1960. Today, the National Weather Service receives 140 million satellite transmissions from satellites each day.

© NASA ×


This newspaper was found on a couch in a Gentilly district home, damaged by flooding. The edition is dated Saturday, August 27, the day before New Orleans's mayor issued an evacuation order and two days before the first of the levee failures that put much of the city underwater.

© Julie Dermansky ×


Bryan Vernon and Dorothy Bell are rescued by a dinghy that navigated the street through floodwaters as high as rooftops. Many residents of Hurricane Katrina didn't survive, and survivors were scattered across the country, many lacking the means—or the desire—to return and rebuild.

© Eric Gay/AP Photo ×


On August 19, 2007, Hurrican Dean pummeled the waterfront boulevard in downtown Kingston, Jamaica with strong winds and torrential rains.

© Andres Leighton/AP Photo ×