The 10 Most Powerful Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Typhoons in History

Learn more about the most epic storms ever recorded

Infrared image of Hurricane Patricia

If you're fascinated by extreme storms, you likely know that the East Pacific's Hurricane Patricia is considered to be the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. But if Patricia was that fierce of a storm, could it also have been one of the most intense tropical cyclones the world has ever seen? Here's a look at the 10 most intense storms ever recorded on the planet—that is, across the various hurricane basins—and how Patricia ranks among them.

[Note: Storms are ranked by the highest one-minute sustained surface wind speed reported during their lifespan. A "sustained" wind refers to winds and wind gusts that are averaged together to arrive at an estimated constant speed. Only storms having a central pressure below 900 millibars (mb) are listed.]

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Typhoon Amy (1971)

  • Basin: Western Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 172 mph (kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 890 millibars

These storms tie Amy as the 10th-strongest storm (by winds):

  • Typhoon Elsie, 1975: 895 mb
  • Typhoon Bess, 1965: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Agnes, 1968: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Hope, 1970: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Nadine, 1971: 900 mb.
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Typhoon Ida (1954)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 173 mph (278 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 890 millibars

This trio of typhoons share the rank of the ninth-strongest storm (by winds):

  • Typhoon Wilda, 1964: 895 mb
  • Typhoon Tess, 1953: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Pamela, 1954: 900 mb.
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Typhoon Rita (1978)

  • Basin: Western Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 175 mph (281 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 880 millibars

Besides being notable in strength, Rita had the odd characteristic of tracking virtually due west for its nearly two-week duration. It impacted Guam, the Philippines (as a Category 4 equivalent), and Vietnam, causing $100 million in damage and more than 300 deaths.

These three tie Rita as the eighth-strongest storm (by winds):

  • Typhoon Wynne, 1980: 890 mb
  • Typhoon Yuri, 1991: 895 mb
  • Hurricane Camille, 1969: 900 mb
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Typhoon Irma (1971)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 180 mph (286 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 884 millibars

Typhoon Irma is unique in that it's one of the few tropical cyclones on this list that remained at sea (although it did impact several islands in the West Pacific). Also of interest is its rapid deepening rate: Irma strengthened at a rate of four millibars per hour over the 24-hour period from November 10 to November 11.

Also clocking in at 180 mph, tying for the seventh-strongest storm (by winds):

  • Hurricane Rita, 2005: 895 mb
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Typhoon June (1975)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 185 mph (298 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 875 millibars

June had the second-lowest pressure of any tropical cyclone globally. It was also known for being the first storm in recorded history to exhibit triple eyewalls, an extremely rare occurrence in which two additional eyewalls form outside the main eyewall (like a bullseye pattern). Since it never came close to making landfall, there were no damages or fatalities reported.

These storms also reached wind velocities of 185 mph, tying for the sixth-strongest slot (by winds):

  • Typhoon Nora, 1973: 877 mb
  • Hurricane Wilma, 2005: 882 mb
  • Typhoon Megi, 2010: 885 mb
  • Typhoon Nina, 1953: 885 mb
  • Hurricane Gilbert, 1988: 888 mb
  • Labor Day Hurricane of 1935: 892 mb
  • Typhoon Karen, 1962: 894 mb
  • Typhoon Lola, 1957: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Carla, 1967: 900 mb
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Typhoon Tip (1979)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 190 mph (306 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 870 millibars

While Tip may rank at the halfway mark when it comes to wind speed, keep in mind that when it comes to central pressure, it is the number-one strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded on Earth. It's minimum pressure bottomed out at a world-record low of 870 millibars on October 12, 1979, shortly after passing Guam and Japan. Tip is also the largest tropical cyclone ever observed. At peak strength, its winds spread 1,380 miles (2,220 km) in diameter—that's nearly half the size of the contiguous United States.

Two storms, one in the Western Pacific and one in the Atlantic, are tied with Tip for the fifth-strongest storm (by winds):

  • Typhoon Vera, 1959: 895 mb
  • Hurricane Allen, 1980: 899 mb
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Typhoon Joan (1959)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 195 mph (314 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 885 millibars

Joan was the 1959 typhoon season's strongest storm in terms of intensity and size (it was more than 1,000 miles across). Joan struck Taiwan (with winds of 185 mph—the equivalent of a strong Category 5) and China, but Taiwan was more severely affected with 11 deaths and $3 million in crop damage. 

These Western Pacific storms are tied with Joan as fourth-strongest storm (by winds):

  • Typhoon Haiyan, 2013: 895 mb
  • Typhoon Sally, 1964: 895 mb
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Typhoon Ida (1958) and Hurricane Patricia (2015)

  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 200 mph (325 kph)

The Western Pacific's Typhoon Ida and East Pacific newcomer, Hurricane Patricia are tied for the third-strongest cyclone ever recorded.

Hitting southeastern Japan as a Category 3, Ida caused extensive flooding and mudslides and led to over 1,200 fatalities. With a minimum central pressure of 877 millibars, Ida is also the third-strongest cyclone ever recorded in terms of central pressure.

Like Ida, Patricia also holds multiple records. In terms of pressure, it is the strongest hurricane to spin up in the Western Hemisphere. It is the strongest hurricane in terms of reliably measured winds. Patricia is also the fastest tropical cyclone to intensify, or "bomb out," a record previously held by Ida—but broken by Patricia's 100 millibar pressure decrease (from 980 mb to 880 mb) that took place over a two-day period from October 22 to 23.

Patricia made landfall north of Manzanillo, Mexico still at Category 5 intensity, becoming only the second Pacific hurricane to make landfall at this intensity. The storm impacted mostly rural areas and weakened to a depression within 24 hours of moving ashore (as a result of being broken apart by the mountainous terrain along the Mexican coastline) both of which limited damages to under $200 million and fatalities to less 20.

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Typhoon Violet (1961)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 207 mph (335 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 886 millibars

For such an intense storm, Violet was surprisingly short-lived. Within five days of forming, it had strengthened into a Category 5 equivalent super-typhoon with a central pressure of 886 millibars and winds in excess of 200 mph. A few days after reaching peak intensity, it had all but dissipated. The fact that Violet had weakened to a tropical storm by the time it made landfall in Japan kept damages and loss of life to a minimum.

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Typhoon Nancy (1961)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest one-minute sustained winds: 213 mph (345 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 882 millibars

Typhoon Nancy has held onto the number-one rank for strongest tropical cyclone (based on winds) for five decades and counting but its placement at the top isn't without controversy. It's possible that the wind estimates for the storm may have been inflated during aircraft reconnaissance flyovers. (Wind readings during the 1940s to 1960s were likely overestimated due to inadequate technology and a lesser understanding at the time of how hurricanes work.) 

Assuming Nancy's wind speed data is reliable, it qualifies her for another record: the longest-lasting Category 5 equivalent hurricane in the Northern Hemisphere, with sustained winds lasting five-and-a-half days.

Nancy did make landfall, though thankfully not at peak intensity. Even so, it caused $500 million in damages and accounted for approximately 200 deaths by the time it made landfall as a Category 2 in Japan.

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Your Citation
Means, Tiffany. "The 10 Most Powerful Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Typhoons in History." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Means, Tiffany. (2023, April 5). The 10 Most Powerful Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Typhoons in History. Retrieved from Means, Tiffany. "The 10 Most Powerful Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Typhoons in History." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).