Super Typhoon Haiyan left a path of tremendous devastation as it traversed the Philippines. Virtually all Category 5 hurricanes that make landfall do the same, with the number of casualties modulated by poverty, preparation, and preparedness (which are two different concepts).
While they are not infrequent over the open ocean, Category 5 storms don’t hit land very often. There’s some evidence that hurricanes of this intensity are unstable, and the eyewall structure required to maintain such winds often undergoes a natural change that reduces them to Category 4, or even three.
But some of them do devastate a coastline before this occurs. That includes the current record-holding storm for (estimated) maximum wind, 1969 Hurricane Camille, which one of us (Michaels) rode out in an oceanfront laboratory not far from the eastern eyewall. Haiyan may well beat Camille’s records, but we won’t know until damage surveys are completed.