September 2007
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The most expensive disasters in the U.S.

The most expensive disasters in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has on its Web site a list of U.S. weather disasters that occurred between 1980 and 2006 and resulted in damage amounts in billions of dollars. Following is a list of the 10 most expensive weather disasters in the U.S. during that time period (costs are normalized to 2002 dollars using GNP inflation/wealth index). Five of the 10 disasters happened during the past three years.

  1. Hurricane Katrina (August 2005)—$125 billion


  2. The most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane that swept along the coasts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving devastating damage in its wake, including severe flooding in New Orleans as a result of levee failure. The hurricane caused more than 1,800 deaths.

  3. Drought/heat wave in central/eastern U.S. (Summer 1988)—$61.6 billion


  4. Drought in this area of the U.S. resulted in extremely severe losses in agriculture and related industries. It is estimated that there were 5,000 to 10,000 deaths, including heat stress-related deaths.

  5. Drought/heat wave in central/eastern U.S. (June-September 1980)—$48.4 billion


  6. Severe drought led to significant costs in agriculture and related industries and caused an estimated 10,000 deaths, including heat stress-related deaths.

  7. Hurricane Andrew (August 1992)—$35.6 billion


  8. Hurricane Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane that hit Florida and Louisiana, damaging 125,000 homes and causing 61 deaths.

  9. Midwest flooding (Summer 1993)—$26.7 billion


  10. Heavy rains and thunderstorms caused severe flooding in the Midwest, resulting in 48 deaths.

  11. Hurricane Rita (September 2005)—$16 billion


  12. This Category 3 hurricane hit the coast of the Texas-Louisiana border, causing damage and flooding. Before landfall, the hurricane reached the third lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic basin—897 millibars (mb). Although 119 deaths were reported, many were indirect and related to evacuations.

  13. Hurricane Wilma (October 2005)—$16 billion


  14. Hurricane Wilma was a Category 3 hurricane in southwest Florida. Before landfall, it was a Category 5 hurricane and reached the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic basin—882 mb. It resulted in an estimated 35 deaths.

  15. Hurricane Charley (August 2004)—$15 billion


  16. This Category 4 hurricane hit southwest Florida, causing damage in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. It resulted in at least 35 deaths.

  17. Hurricane Ivan (September 2004)—$14 billion


  18. Hurricane Ivan made landfall on the Gulf coast of Alabama, causing damage in Alabama and Florida, as well as many other states along the eastern and southern coasts. The Category 3 hurricane resulted in at least 57 deaths.

  19. Hurricane Hugo (September 1989)—$13.9 billion


  20. Hurricane Hugo was a Category 4 hurricane with a 20-foot storm surge. It hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and then severely damaged North Carolina and South Carolina. The hurricane caused 86 deaths—57 on the mainland and 29 on the U.S. islands.

For a complete list of billion dollar U.S. weather disasters between 1980 and 2006, visit www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/reports/billionz.html.


This Web exclusive information is a supplement to Preparing for the worst.

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