Ranking Grey's Anatomy Disasters by How Devastating They Were

Plus, get an exclusive sneak peek at the ABC hit's fall finale, airing November 15!

By Billy Nilles Nov 15, 2018 5:58 PMTags

Disaster is coming for Grey Sloan Memorial.

In tonight's fall finale, the good doctors of Grey's Anatomy will face down their latest mass trauma event when a windstorm comes for Seattle. And in the exclusive clip above, it's clear that everyone's a little...excited? Not exactly the reaction we'd expect, but we guess when you've dealt with as many traumatic events as these doctors have, something like a little wind is no big deal.

"Windstorms are my favorite," Miranda (Chandra Wilson) tells Owen (Kevin McKidd) and the interns. "Yeah, you're gonna love this."

"We're supposed to love this?" Levi/Glasses (Jake Borelli) asks incredulously as he and his fellow interns take stock of all the wounded already crowding the ER, most of them just grinning in excitement.

But we, the fervently dedicated fans of Shonda Rhimes' baby who've been watching for 15 seasons know better by now. We know this won't be all neat surgery opportunities and good times. Because when disaster arrives on Grey's Anatomy, devastation is sure to follow. Before we see what fresh hell showrunner Krista Vernoff has in store for us tonight, let's take a look at some of the major disasters of Grey's past, ranked by—you guessed it—the devastation they left in their wake.

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13. The Train Crash (Season 2)

In the sixth episode of the show's second season, entitled "Into You Like a Train," we got our first taste of disaster when a train crash brought patients Bonnie and Tom to the hospital, impaled on the same metal pole. We got a taste of how heartbreaking these disaster situations can be when the docs had to prioritize saving one over the other. (It was Tom's lucky day—minus the fact that he was impaled to begin with.) But because the body count was so low and it had no real effect on the doctors, aside from Meredith seeing parallels between her situation with Derek (Patrick Dempsey) having to choose between her and Addison (Kate Walsh), there's nowhere to rank this one but at the bottom.

12. The Sinkhole (Season 8)

Season eight brought about a bunch of disasters—coffee shop exploding, an ambulance incident involving Mer and Alex (Justin Chambers), and the season-ending whopper found much later on this list—but only one of them involved a giant sinkhole opening up in the middle of Seattle. The first two episodes of the season, "Free Falling" and "She's Gone," dealt with that insane phenomenon, but again, as it had little ramifications for our beloved doctors aside from giving them some headaches at work, this one was only really good for some neat visual effects.

11. The Explosion (Season 13)

The last two episodes of season 13—Jerrika Hinton's last as Dr. Stephanie Edwards—were a doozy, placing the outgoing doctor in harm's way when a hospital lockdown trapped her and a young girl on an empty floor of the hospital. To get out, the rapist began starting a fire to open the doors. Our fears that Stephanie would leave the hospital in a body bag, especially warranted after she lit the man on fire around gas tanks in a lab, which then exploded, proved unfounded. She got a hero's exit, instead, braving the flames to keep the young girl alive on the roof until rescue could come, after which she promptly quit. Powerful season finale? You betcha. Devastating? Not so much.

10. The Earthquake (Season 11)

Leave it to Grey's Anatomy to have an earthquake episode and not make it the biggest disaster facing the show that season. In season 11's 15th episode, appropriately entitled "I Feel the Earth Move," Seattle was rocked by an earthquake, leaving the ER flooded with patients. The hour was a showcase for Owen (Kevin McKidd) who helped a young girl (played by a pre-Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown) save her mother's life over the phone, but when the only dangers for our docs include Maggie (Kelly McCreary) trapped in an elevator and Mer's streak of successful surgeries possibly coming to an end, it can only rank so high.

9. The Ambulance Crash (Season 4)

Over the course of two episodes in season four, "Crash Into Me (Part 1)" and "(Part 2)," Seattle Grace was forced to reckon with am ambulance crash right outside the hospital. Was it sad because the doctors weren't able to save all of their first-responder colleagues? Sure. Was it devastating? Not really.

8. The Car Crash (Season 7)

In the 18th episode of season seven, entitled "Song Beneath the Song," Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) proposed to Callie (Sara Ramirez) while the two were driving to a weekend B&B. They were then immediately hit by a truck, leaving Callie and her fetus in critical condition. At this point, we knew Grey's well enough to know this could possibly be the end of the road for Dr. Torres, but she managed to pull through. The most devastating thing about the episode was that Shonda Rhimes decided to make everyone sing. That's right, this was the infamous "Music Event."

7. The Superstorm (Season 9)

In the final two episodes of season nine, "Readiness is All" and "Perfect Storm," Seattle braced for a superstorm that eventually left the hospital without power. Loosely based on Hurricane Sandy, the storm brought plenty of disaster to the hospital, including a bus crash right in front, an emergency C-section (in the dark!) for Meredith, and an electrocution for Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and—in the season 10 premiere aftermath—Heather (Tina Majorino). The intense episodes mark the first event on this list to cost us the life of a doctor, but seeing as how it was just Heather, it wasn't all that upsetting. (Sorry, Heather fans!)

6. The Ferry Crash (Season 3)

Ah, the ferryboat accident of season three. Not only was this a pretty epic mass trauma situation, providing challenges for the whole staff, but it also almost cost Meredith her life. After a patient accidentally pushed her into the frigid water with nobody around as witness save for a silent little girl, Mer struggled to stay afloat before eventually just letting go, choosing to give up on her traumatic life. Her resulting time in limbo was a bit hokey, as we watched her interact with ghosts of Grey's past, but the suicide attempt was an effective window into Mer's tortured psyche.

5. The Other Explosion (Season 2)

In its second season, Grey's Anatomy got the plum post-Super Bowl time slot and Rhimes and her team stepped up their game with the first of two episodes, "It's the End of the World" and "As We Know It," which saw a patient come into the ER with live ammunition in his chest and  paramedic Christina Ricci's hand as the only thing preventing an explosion. Naturally, Meredith wound up with her hand on the bomb. She eventually removed the explosive, passing it off to bomb squad leader Dylan (Kyle Chandler), only to watch as he blows up while walking away with it. it was our first big taste of Grey's pulling the rug out from under us after what seemed like a win, priming us for all the devastation to come.

4. The Bus Accident (Season 5)

The bus accident in the season five finale, entitled "Now or Never," came about after a John Doe jumped in front of the public transport to save a woman's life. Seemed like pretty standard stuff for Grey's until we realized that we hadn't seen T.R. Knight's George O'Malley, who'd just decided to join the Army, throughout the entire episode. And when the disfigured John Doe wrote out "0-0-7" into Meredith's hand, a callback to the cruel nickname bestowed upon him by Alex early in the series, that we knew this was no standard accident. This was the first major character death to rock Grey's and thinking about the moment Izzie (Katherine Heigl) sees George in his Army uniform while she was also flatlining still chokes us up. (It should've been her who died, not him!)

3. The Active Shooter (Season 6)

Has Grey's Anatomy ever delivered a scarier two episodes than season six's two-part finale, "Sanctuary" and "Death And All His Friends"? We think not. After a grieving widower returns to the hospital with a gun, he begins hunting down the doctors he holds responsible for the death of his wife and what resulted were two of the most intense hours of television we've ever seen. Alex and Derek were shot, Mer suffered a miscarriage, minor characters Reed (Nora Zehetner) and Charles (Robert Baker) were murdered, and the thought of Bailey (Chandra Wilson) being dragged out from under Mandy Moore's hospital bed still sends shivers down our spines.

2. The Other Car Accident (Season 11)

If you think Derek's death should be at No. 1 on this list, then you went into season 11 with more love left in your heart for the character than we did. But his untimely demise—the result of Dempsey wanting out of his recently-extended contract earlier than expected and Rhimes seeing no other viable option to write him out—at the end of season 11 was the sort of shock that no one saw coming. After helping motorists in a dangerous car accident, it seemed like Derek would return home like normal. And then his car was T-boned and he was brought to a neighboring hospital that wasn't equipped to handle the sort of trauma he was in, leaving him brain dead by the time Meredith made it there, leaving her unable to say goodbye. The devastation Mer faced in the wake of the widow-making event was plentiful, however. 

1. The Plane Crash (Season 8)

Come on, were you expecting anything else? At the end of season eight, Rhimes & Co. decided to rip out hearts out and stomp on them when they placed Meredith, Cristina (Sandra Oh), Derek, Lexie (Chyler Leigh), Arizona, and Mark (Eric Dane) on a small plane to Boise, Idaho to perform a surgery separating conjoined twins. En route, the plane crashed, leaving the group to fight for their lives in the woods, attempting to keep the more critically injured alive while hoping someone would soon realize their plane never made it to its final destination. Lexie died as Mark finally confessed his love to her, Mark died in the season nine premiere after a month spent on life support, and Arizona, only on the plane after replacing Alex, lost her leg. And we'll never get over the finale's last shot, as the survivors were huddled together trying to stay awake as their last match went out. Brutal, brutal stuff.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.