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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 06/17/2011

Billion dollar weather disasters in U.S. off to record-setting start in 2011


Number of billion dollar weather disasters (left y-axis) and total weather disaster damages (right y-axis) 1980 to mid-2011 (NOAA)
Through mid-June 2011, an unprecedented eight extreme weather events have become billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). No other year on record (since 1980) has experienced this many such disasters year-to-date.

In fact, the only other year with more billion dollar weather events is 2008, which had nine but over 12 months (compared to eight over six months this year) . If the 2011 were to end today, it would rank second in terms of the number of extreme weather events in the last 31 years.

NOAA reports damages from this onslaught of disasters have totaled nearly $32 billion. The average cost-to-date (through mid-June) is less than $6 billion dollars.

At a press briefing on this year’s extreme weather Wednesday, Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, said only seven entire years in the record have produced more economic damage than 2011 (about half way done).

Historically, many of the costliest billion dollar weather disasters in the United States have occurred during hurricane season, which peaks in August and September.

Here’s is a compilation of these record setting events accompanied by descriptions, reproduced in full from NOAA’s Natonal Climatic Data Center:

1) ‘Groundhog Day Blizzard’ Jan 29-Feb 3. Large winter storm impacting many central, eastern and northeastern states. The city of Chicago was brought to a virtual standstill as between 1 and 2 feet of snow fell over the area. Insured losses >$1.1 billion; total losses (e.g., insurance, state and local snow removal, business interruption) >$3.9 billion; 36 deaths.

2) Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes April 4-5. Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (KS,MO,IA,IL,WI,KY,GA,TN,NC,SC) with an estimated 46 tornadoes. Over $1.4 billion insured losses; total losses >$2.0 billion; 9 deaths.

3) Southeast/Midwest Tornadoes April 8-11. Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (NC,SC,TN,AL,TX,OK,KS,IA,WI) with an estimated 59 tornadoes. Over $1.5 billion insured losses; total losses >$2.2 billion; numerous injuries, no known deaths.

4) Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes April 14-16. Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (OK,TX,AR,MS,AL,GA,NC,SC,VA,PA) with an estimated 160 tornadoes. Despite the large overall number of tornadoes, few were classified as intense, with just 14 EF-3, and no EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes identified. A total of 38 people were killed from the tornadoes, 22 of which were in North Carolina. Over $1.7 billion insured losses; total losses >$2.0 billion; 38 deaths.

5) Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest Tornadoes April 25-30. Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (AL,AR,LA,MS,GA,TN,VA,KY,IL,MO,OH,TX,OK) with an estimated 305 tornadoes and 320 deaths. Of those fatalities, 235 occurred in Alabama. The deadliest tornado of the outbreak, an EF-5, hit northern Alabama, killing 78 people. Several major metropolitan areas were directly impacted by strong tornadoes including Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville in Alabama and Chattanooga, Tennessee, causing the estimated damage costs to soar. Insured losses likely >$5.0 billion, yet this is still being accounted. Insurance catastrophe modeler AIR estimated insured losses ranging $3.7-5.5 billion. Total losses may approach $10.0 billion; 320 deaths.

6) Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes May 22-27. Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (AL,AR,LA,MS,GA,TN,VA,KY,IL,MO,OH,TX,OK) with an estimated 180 tornadoes and 172 deaths. Notably, an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO resulting in at least 141 deaths making it the deadliest single tornado to strike the U.S. since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950. Insured losses still being accounted & are unavailable. Insurance catastrophe modeler EQECAT estimates insured losses in Joplin alone ranges from $1.0-3.0 billion. Modeler AIR estimates insured losses for the full May 22-27 event may total $4.0-7.0 billion. Total losses may exceed $7.0 billion; 172 deaths.

7) Texas Drought & Wildfires Spring-Summer 2011. During March and April, drought and wildfires were the main headline across the Texas, New Mexico, and western Oklahoma. Fighting/suppression costs are ~$1 million / day; total losses to agriculture and cattle are estimated to range between $1.5-3.0 billion. This cost estimate reflects losses as of 16 June, and will likely rise as the event continues.

8) Mississippi River flooding Spring-Summer 2011. Estimated economic loss ranges from $2.0-4.0 billion. Below are more detailed stats, which are preliminary, as the event continues to unfold (as of 6/16):

$500 million to agriculture in Arkansas

$320 million in damage to Memphis, Tennessee

$800 million to agriculture in Mississippi

$317 million to agriculture and property in Missouri’s Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway

$80 million for the first 30 days of flood fighting efforts in Louisiana

For more on billion dollar weather disasters, visit the National Climatic Data Center’s billion dollar weather disasters page.

Related posts: Spring extreme weather events in 2011 in U.S.: historic and record setting and Shocking: Tornado death rates in 2011 return to pre-1925 levels

By  |  12:15 PM ET, 06/17/2011

Categories:  U.S. Weather, Latest

 
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