Every year, the U.S. experiences catastrophic weather disasters. From drought, wildfires and floods to tropical cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes, the array of natural disasters is just as diverse as their locations and devastating consequences.
The most disastrous events in terms of death and destruction are large tropical weather systems, including hurricanes and tropical storms. In the United States, hurricanes occur during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs approximately from June 1 to November 30.
Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms affect several eastern and southeastern states, including coastal areas of Florida, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina.
Many people will remember 2020 as an unprecedented year for many reasons. Not only was the U.S. severely affected by a global pandemic, but we also set a new annual record for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. According to official government classification factors, 2020 had 22 billion-dollar climate disasters, crushing the previous record of 16 in both 2011 and 2017. Out of these 22 weather events, seven were hurricanes or tropical storms:
Several types of natural disasters, like hailstorms and wildfires, are common within the United States. However, when it comes to economic damage, hurricanes remain the most expensive weather events. This is mainly due their ability to produce several devastating impacts, including high winds, deadly storm surge, tornadoes and flooding.
Even minor hurricanes can claim innocent lives, cause irreversible damage to property and leaving cities and towns without power or running water for weeks.
The three most financially devastating natural disasters in American history were Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria. Katrina, which struck Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the summer of 2005, caused 2,000 people to lose their lives and $182.5 billion in economic loss. Some affected parts of Louisiana remain uninhabited to this day.
Right behind Katrina are 2017’s Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria, which resulted in $141.3 billion and $101.7 billion in economic damage respectively.
No, 2020 wasn’t the most expensive year for natural disasters in the U.S.
Even though there was a record number of severe weather and climate events, their cumulative strength didn’t outweigh the devastating financial consequences of some single weather events from prior to 2020. For instance, 2020’s total damage amounted to $102 billion, which was significantly less than the total cost of Hurricane Harvey ($141.3 billion).
The most financially disastrous year from a weather standpoint was 2017, with weather events causing $306.2 billion in damage, breaking 2015’s record of $214.8 billion.