Only four hurricanes have ever hit the mainland U.S. with winds stronger than Ian’s and all were deadly category 5 storms — the most powerful on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Those terrors were the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 that tore through Miami; Camille that struck the Gulf Coast near Mississippi in 1969; Andrew in 1992 and Michael in 2018. Andrew and Michael — which both hit Florida — are in the top 10 most expensive US storms.
Neither of the top two costliest storms were category 5 however: Katrina landed as a category 3, causing $186.3 billion in today’s dollars and Harvey was a category 4 when it hit Texas, bringing $148.8 billion in damages.
Camille hit what was then a sparsely populated area of the Gulf and would have caused $11.3 billion in damages in today’s dollars, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. Michael also hit a relatively open area of the Florida Panhandle, causing $29 billion in damages. Andrew struck near Miami, with $55.9 billion of devastation. The 1935 Labor Day storm caused $129 million in damages, an inflation-adjusted figure based on an estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The difference between storms like Michael and Camille is that Ian is going to hit a fairly built-up area, said Dan Pydynowski, a meteorologist at commercial forecaster AccuWeather Inc.
“This one is hitting an area where you have a lot of buildings and infrastructure,” he said. “And a lot of expensive real estate. Michael was devastating but it did not hit a hugely populated area.”