2011 is record year for $1B disasters in U.S.
A series of April tornadoes in the Southeast, including in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was one of 2011's costliest weather events.
December 7th, 2011
08:25 PM ET

2011 is record year for $1B disasters in U.S.

The United States had a record 12 weather and climate disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damages in 2011, and that number could increase as other assessments wrap up, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday.

The country’s old record for weather and climate disasters costing at least $1 billion was nine, set in 2008.

The year’s costliest disaster so far is the April 25-28 tornado outbreak that killed 321 people in central and Southern states, including Alabama, where the Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville areas were hard hit. Losses in that outbreak have totaled $10.2 billion, according to NOAA.

Also on the 2011 list is a multimonth drought and heatwave in the southern Plains and the Southwest, which so far has caused nearly $10 billion in direct losses to crops, livestock and timber, NOAA says. The cost will rise because the drought and the year aren’t finished.

Another disaster on the list is the May 22-27 Midwest/Southeast tornado outbreak, including a tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri. That outbreak killed at least 177 people and caused damages of more than $9.1 billion, according to NOAA.

“In my weather career spanning four decades, I’ve never seen a year like 2011,” National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said in a video posted on NOAA’s website. “Sure, we’ve had years with extreme flooding, extreme hurricanes, extreme winter snowstorms and even extreme tornado outbreaks. But I can’t remember a year like this in which we experienced record-breaking extremes of nearly every conceivable type of weather.”

The year already had a record-breaking 10 $1 billion disasters before this week, but NOAA added two to the list on Wednesday: Wildfires in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona (more than $1 billion), which previously had been counted in the southern Plains and Southwestern drought; and June 18-22 tornadoes and severe weather in the Midwest and Southeast (three dead; $1.3 billion).

The other seven $1 billion events, according to NOAA, were:

- January 29 to February 3: Central, Eastern and Northeastern U.S. blizzard (at least 36 deaths, $1.8 billion in losses)

- April 4-5: Midwest/Southeast tornadoes (nine deaths; $2.8 billion)

- April 8-11: Southeast/Midwest tornadoes: (no deaths; $2.2 billion)

- April 14-16: Midwest/Southeast tornadoes: (38 deaths; $2.1 billion)

- Spring and summer: Mississippi River flooding ($3 billion to $4 billion in economic losses)

- Summer: Upper Midwest flooding (five deaths; more than $2 billion)

- August 20-29: Hurricane Irene (45 deaths; $7.3 billion)

NOAA said it is continuing to assess damage data from other events, including a pre-Halloween storm in the Northeast and Tropical Storm Lee.

This year’s 12 events have totaled about $52 billion in damages, but they aren’t the country’s costliest set of major disasters, NOAA said. In 2005, the country had five disasters costing more than $1 billion - including Hurricane Katrina - with a total cost of more than $175 billion in 2011 dollars, according to NOAA.

The United States had a yearly average of 1.2 weather/climate disasters causing more than $1 billion in damages in the 1980s, according to NOAA. The average was 3.8 per year in the 1990s and five per year between 2000 and 2009.

Also see: Severe weather the norm in 2011

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Filed under: Flooding • Hurricanes • Tornadoes • Weather
soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. Jethro

    Do any of us really know what God is or if there really is an omnipotent/omnipresent being?

    December 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      and what does this have to do with weather? go talk about religion somewhere else.

      December 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff

    Shouldn't this generate a lot of jobs? That $50B has to be going somewhere...

    December 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Clean up companies thrive on this stuff. Heavy rains and fires are their bread and butter, but a disaster is friggin pay dirt.

      December 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim

    I'm not surprised, considering that most of the houses in the US are paper made bungalows.

    December 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sarah

    I'm from Joplin, and 163 people died. Not 158. Facts need to be checked a little more thoroughly, I think.

    December 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      God Bless you my friend and all uyour family and friends

      December 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      You also need to check your facts sweetie because 161 people died during the tornado and another during the cleanup.

      December 9, 2011 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Brandon

    Yes okay there are more billion dollar disasters now than in the 1980's, but the article doesn't mention how much easier it is to rack up $1B now than it was then. Houses with thousands of dollars of electronics are the norm, as well as businesses with electronic systems out the wazoo. the article doesn't even bother adjusting for inflation. But it certainly does a good job of making it sound like things are worse now, which everyone who contains even the slightest amount of nostalgia will agree with, regardless of the facts.

    December 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. James


    December 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. WAKE-UP


    December 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Andy Kusuma

    Kim and Kris is the truth story about the mess up Civilatization's System in The US...unfortunattely some people even stupid officer always behind EVE side..rather know from both side..Oke God always watch..They made us..always come to me and show me on my dream..Just don't panic..and pray..He will hear you..GBU

    December 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Al Gore

    Americans love their cars excessively.
    Americans consume too many material goods that they throw away too often into land fills.
    Americans eat too much meat that accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gases
    Americans have become gluttons for the last 100 years, so they will pay the price in the present and the future as climate change becomes even worse in the years to come.

    December 9, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ace

    Umm, didn't Al Gore say this would happen. He even made it into a movie.

    December 9, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. bwydeman

    The spirit of antichrist is prevailing in the world to a far greater extent than it has ever prevailed before. The day of test and purification is just upon us. Signs of a most startling character appear, in floods, in hurricanes, in tornadoes, in cloud-bursts, in casualties by land and by sea that proclaim the approach of the end of all things. The judgments of God are falling on the world, that men may be awakened to the fact that Christ will come speedily. The Lord is about to reveal the difference between the righteous and the wicked… Review and Herald, November 8, 1892.

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    December 9, 2011 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. yunusa

    wat a pity in lose the gov. should try to get rid of this disasters happening in u.s

    December 9, 2011 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Unification

    I read comments on posts at cnn almost everyday. What kills me is how so many people can take time out of their day to talk #hit about what others have commented or call them stupid, an idiot dumbfounded etc. How about if you dont like what another person has to say, dont read it! Your making the world such a better place with your harsh comments and name calling! And we wonder why this world is so messed up, turn it into something positive or shut your freakin mouth...

    December 9, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
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