Irene may join top 10 priciest natural disasters in US history

The aftermath of a very expensive natural disaster. Buildings and cars in the street show signs of ruin.

Hurricanes can cause damage in the billions of dollars. (Photo Credit: CC BY/ICMA Photos/Flickr)

Insurance underwriters estimate that Hurricane Irene may end up costing somewhere between $7 billion and $10 billion, much of that due to flood damage. While meteorologists had predicted worse from the weather event that was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, the damage caused by Irene may still rank it among the top 10 priciest natural disasters in U.S. history. Led by the devastating Hurricane Katrina, here are America’s top 10 most costly natural disasters. Dollar figures and death totals are taken from National Climactic Data Center reports.

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

With $133.8 billion in damages, Hurricane Katrina is far and away the most financially devastating natural disaster in recorded U.S. history. The Category 3 storm ravaged the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, claiming 1,833 lives and changing thousands more.

Drought and heat wave, 1988

The summer of 1988 brought heat waves and drought to the central and eastern U.S. Pennsylvania suffered through its hottest summer in a century. In total, damage to agriculture amounted to $71.2 billion, and it was estimated that as many as 10,000 lives were lost to heat stroke.

Drought and heat wave, 1980

Just eight years before, a heat wave struck the central and eastern U.S. Intense heat and windstorms that kicked up sand claimed as many as 10,000 lives across Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and beyond. Agriculture and related industries were hit with $55.4 billion in damages.

Hurricane Andrew, 1992

A Category 5 hurricane, Andrew hit Dade County, Fla., and wreaked havoc before weakening to a Category 3 as it hit Louisiana. Winds destroyed more than 25,000 homes and damaged 100,000 more, resulting in about $40 billion in losses. Deaths were estimated at 61.

Mississippi River flood, 1993

Heavy rains during the summer of 1993 caused the Mississippi River to flood its banks in Missouri. Record flood levels along the Mississippi and its tributaries resulted in flood damage that amounted to $30.2 billion. Des Moines, Iowa, was left without water for 12 days, the longest period of time in recorded history that a large U.S. city has gone without water.

Hurricane Ike, 2008

Category 2 Hurricane Ike took Texas for a ride in 2008, and Louisiana also suffered from flood damage. Damage to property, offshore oil rigs, pipelines and refineries amounted to $27 billion. The death total was 112.

Hurricane Rita, 2005

A Category 5 while over the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Rita ravaged the southern coasts of Texas and Louisiana in September 2005. At least 119 people were killed, and the hurricane and flood damage cost $17.1 billion.

Hurricane Wilma, 2005

Roughly a month after Rita, Hurricane Wilma hit southwest Florida as a Category 3 hurricane. Losses in Florida included 35 deaths and another $17.1 billion in insurance claims and damages.

Hurricane Charley, 2004

In August of 2004, Hurricane Charley hit coastal Florida and the Carolinas, causing $16.5 billion in damage. The death toll reached 35.

Hurricane Ivan, 2004

Intense flood and wind damage were in store for coastal Alabama in September 2004 when Category 3 Hurricane Ivan arrived. More than 100 tornadoes were reported in inland areas. Fifty-seven U.S. lives were lost as well as 72 citizens in Grenada and Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. By the time the dust had settled, $15.4 billion in U.S. damage had occurred.

2011: A costly year for global natural disasters



New York Times

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