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A cyclone that stopped the Roman Army cold. A hurricane and "dragon twist" that wiped out major cities. A supervolcano that triggered the Dark Ages. These are history's perfect storms, forces of nature that impacted us in ways far beyond the havoc they wreaked.

Smithsonian Channel
1 Season, 6 Episodes
November 30, 2014
8.2/10
Cast: Wallace Huo, Yan Tang, Mi Gong, Huang Ming
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Perfect Storms Full Episode Guide

  • It's December 1941, two months into Operation Typhoon, Hitler's all-out attack on Russia. To this point, the Nazi's appear unstoppable. The Soviets are on the verge of collapse when a surprising ally comes to their aid: "rasputitsa", or mud season. See how heavy rains followed by a brutal Russian winter slowed the German attack to a muddy crawl, greatly impacting the Battle of Moscow and perhaps the outcome of World War II.

  • In the middle of the 6th century, the greatest volcanic catastrophe in human history rocked Central America and set off a lethal chain of events, from climate change to famine to the Bubonic plague. How could one volcano have such a cataclysmic effect? Follow experts in environmental hazards and historians as they investigate the eruption that smothered the planet with billions of tons of ash and witness what this history-shattering event was like for the unfortunate civilizations that were hit by this perfect storm.

  • September 1, 1923. Japan is hit by its worst earthquake ever, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale. Within seconds, the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama are leveled, but their troubles are only beginning. Relive the Great Kanto Earthquake, a perfect storm of catastrophic events, including a landslide, a firestorm and a monstrous force of nature called a "dragon twist," a tornado of fire that would help claim 140,000 lives in just minutes. Then see how this disaster shaped the destiny of a nation and changed the course of the 20th century.

  • In 1900, Galveston, Texas was rocked by a hurricane that killed more people than all other storms to strike the U.S. for the next century combined. Anywhere from 6,000-12,000 were killed in a deadly collision of natural forces caused by an official's mistaken belief that a storm of such magnitude could never strike his city. Relive the catastrophic events when the jewel in the crown of Texas was obliterated, and see how the lessons learned from that catastrophe helped Galveston properly prepare for Hurricane Ike 108 years later.

  • The year is 9 A.D., and Rome is attempting to add Germania to its mighty empire, but they're up against two powerful forces, a well-trained army of barbarians and a cyclonic storm of unfathomable fury. Enter the dark Teutoburg Forest, where three Roman legions, 16,000 men strong, fell victim to treacherous terrain, guerilla tactics, and a violent monsoon. This catastrophic defeat would deplete Rome of most of its army, create a boundary between Latin and Germanic Europe that exists to this day, and change the course of history.

  • See how a triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and firestorm brought down an empire and changed history.

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Perfect Storms is available to watch and stream on Smithsonian Channel. You can also buy, rent Perfect Storms on demand at iTunes online.