Although heat waves and floods also caused significant human and financial costs, hurricanes top the list of natural disasters.
The hurricane season has had a relatively quiet start, but storm activity is now increasing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is sticking with its forecast of above-average storm activity this season. Several atmospheric and oceanic conditions that could slightly increase hurricane activity through November 30, when the Atlantic hurricane season officially ends, are predicted to persist for the remainder of 2022.
The prediction follows 20 weather and climate natural disasters that, according to NOAA, struck the United States in 2021 and each caused at least $1 billion in damage. One drought, two floods, eleven severe storms, four tropical cyclones, one wildfire, and one winter storm were among these occurrences. Inflation-adjusted damages from 323 weather and climatic disasters since 1980 total $2.195 trillion. These disasters cost at least $1 billion each.
Even though there were more natural disasters than usual in 2021, only one of them, Hurricane Ida, was among the most expensive to ever hit the United States. It was one of only three hurricanes to ever make landfall in Louisiana with sustained winds of 150 mph.
Natural disaster rankings are frequently subjective. Perhaps philosophers and theologians should decide whether or not a storm that kills three people is worse than one that damages $1 billion. A slightly different list would undoubtedly result from ranking the “deadliest” natural disasters.
Based on information from NOAA, here are the top natural disasters that cost the most money. Inflation has been taken into account for all dollar amounts.
1. HURRICANE KATRINA
When: August 2005
Estimated cost: $180 billion
What was a Category 1 storm when it first touched down north of Miami and intensified to a Category 3 storm once it reached the Gulf Coast states. More than 1,800 people lost their lives and more than 1 million were forced to flee their homes as a result of Hurricane Katrina’s fury, which also resulted in wind damage, a rise in sea levels, and the failure of New Orleans’ levee system.
2. HURRICANE HARVEY
When: August 2017
Estimated cost: $143.8 billion
Houston and the surrounding areas experienced historic flooding as a result of the Category 4 hurricane. Over 30 inches of rain fell on 6.9 million people, resulting in over 100 fatalities, more than 30,000 people being displaced, and more than 200,000 homes and businesses being completely destroyed.
3. HURRICANE MARIA
When: September 2017
Estimated cost: $103.5 billion
The most damage was brought on by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The island’s energy, communication, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure all fell apart. The precise number of fatalities caused by the storm is unknown. The death toll was estimated by Harvard researchers to be between 800 and 8,500, while NOAA put it closer to 3,000.