The Most Expensive Weather Disasters in America

Billion-Dollar Weather

Natural disasters may come in many forms – earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, flood, drought – but the damage they wreak on individual lives and economies can be felt on both large and small scales. To track the cause and effects of these disasters, as well as responses and associated costs, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the Department of Commerce has tracked global weather data using the network of satellites in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s orbiting arsenal. A look at the worst disasters of the past 30 years reveals 99 natural disasters whose economic costs (not including human life) surpassed $1 billion from 1980-2010. The NOAA explains the accounting as “the costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses (directly related to the event) are included in damage estimates, and direct plus indirect deaths (i.e., closely related to the event, would not have occurred otherwise) are included in fatality totals.” Statistics are compiled from a variety of U.S. government agencies, state emergency management agencies and insurance industry estimates. They have all been adjusted to 2007 dollars. Read on to see Mother Nature at her most destructive – which, for the hurricanes on this list at least, is measured on a sliding scale from 1 to 5, where Category 5 describes the most severe storms. Photo Credit: U.S. Geological Survey