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. RUFFNUTT (pit bull trainer)

    it wont matter any ways.. we are all gonners in 2012..

    December 7, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott in New Hampshire

      I think that's overly pessimistic. We will all still be here in 2013! But America will be so incredibly poor we'll wish we were dead.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ttony21

      didn't you hear? Palin's not running in 2012. We're saved 😀

      December 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      You may be correct. Do not tempt God.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alex

    You can add that October Blizzard in CT/NY/MA to the list as well as that was worse than Irene.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bobcat (in a hat)

    Oh no RUFFNUTT, say it ain't so.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Walt

    Are they taking into account the levels of inflation for past disasters?

    December 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. gung hoe

    @ruffie dec 28th to be exact

    December 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RUFFNUTT (pit bull trainer)

    sorry bob.. your a gonner also.. i'll be ok..
    when the lava comes i have been prepairing..
    first i lined the bottom of my 1982 camaro with asbestos and a heat shield.
    and i havve been building up a tolerance for heat but drinking suntan lotion and sitting in a heat booth thingie...
    i also have the quardinates for the aliens and have been sending them signals with my 8-track player..
    i was able to buy a 8-track recorder that has an adapter to hook up to my sattilet tv...
    i send the signal to them and sometimes the call me on my bag phone late at night..

    December 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Sweet – '82 Camaro – Berlinetta? You should be fine

      December 7, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chrissy

    lol bobcat, thats what they say! Course in 20l2 they will be sayin 20l3

    December 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RUFFNUTT (pit bull trainer)

    @gung hoe... wrong!!!..
    you for got about leap years...
    the mayans didn't belive in leap years and neither do the aliens..
    my frined "pickles" the alien said it's july 23rd...2012..
    cause their is another planet in andromeda that has to go the next week..

    December 7, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Corvus1

    But hey, I'm sure RON PAUL will save everyone. And by "everyone" I mean straight white men.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wally Balloo

    If you had a parasite on your body, wouldn't you try to kill it off?

    It would be interesting if these things keep getting worse, then we finally figure out that Mother Earth has had enough of us.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      When God has had enough of you, you'll know it, Wally. Repent.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat (in a hat)

    Hey chrissy
    How are you doing ? Been missing you on these posts.
    But I think if I can get my foil hat fashioned by then, I'll be ok.
    And RUFFIE, you crack me up dude.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rizzo

    "how about those people in Kilowaia, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room." – Carlin

    December 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      They take "lava lamp" to a whole new level.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tim Shinn

    I wonder if the wing-nuts will get it through their thick skulls that there is a cost for polluting the environment. Probably not.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Do you know the cost of sin, Tim?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. thomas

    It's all OUR fault, if we don't ALL start driving a Prius, replace all of our standard light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs, and quit eating meat we will all cause the planet to heat up until we all spontaneously combust. (SARCASM)

    December 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CDaeda

    The real disaster is the infrastructure in the US falling apart. Weather disasters are tiny compared to overall falling apart of the infrastructure.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
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