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)

    HOW COME GOD.. didn't put the forbidden fruit tree behind some razor wire?... or put it up real high in the mountians or something..
    why did he even tell adam and eve about the tree..
    i mean like if i went home with a bunch of food from the store..
    and put all the food away.. then said to my kids.. "you can eat all the food in the kitchen you want except leave my fruit roll ups alone.. they are mine and not for you..." what do you think is going to happen?

    December 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      You will not be mocking God when you're in Hell. You will beg for mercy, but God will not know you.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      If God is anything like me (god forbid, so to speak), he is just using it as an excuse the kick the crap out of his kids. So, I'd have to admit that if you accept the whole Adam and Eve thing, Pauly kind of makes sense. Of course, if you're that stupid, you're not on this web site – you're over at fox sounding out the long words.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chrissy

    @ paul, am in total agreement with you!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TallinOK

    How about the lives lost, first. Then discuss the damages.

    Seems callous to me.

    And typically American.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RUFFNUTT (pit bull trainer)

    jesus rocks.. when he comes back jesus and i are gonna party so hard...
    we'll go cruizing up and down noland road in my camaro..
    then we'll go up to blue ridge blvd and get some big boy hambergers...

    December 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      Unless jesus is catholic, in which case you be cruising for little boy buns.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sue in wa. state

    O wow really is this what its about? U guys r funny sometimes!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RUFFNUTT (pit bull trainer)

    jesus came to me in a dream one night and said he liked boston and credance clear water..

    December 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Thinking7

    It amazes me how many people are in denial about climate change. Global warming means climate change. It means more extreme weather both in the summer and in the winter. There is too much to write on this topic here, but people need to sit up and pay attention or they are going to find themselves in a mess shortly.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. blue

    Stop pretending it's not climate change.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TomFoolery

    Gee, that could never have been predicted. Now, is it because the currency continues to be devalued, making a billion dollars a lower bar, and the fact that there continues to be more property in existence, meaning there is more to damage?

    Oh no, it MUST be climate change.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Slim Wallet

    The $600 billion QE2 plus the $1.2 trillion purchase of mortgage backed securities by the Federal Reserve Bank have amounted to the two costliest US disasters since 2008.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pepe

    Looks worse than a game of Sim City gone bad.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TriXen

    YEP!! I'm a homeowners adjuster and I know our cat team has been swamped all year. It seems like every other month we get emails asking people to volunteer to go work cat claims.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David Schlier

    The last paragraph is incredibly misleading for most readers. The increase in billion dollar events is entirely due to monetary inflation and not to an increase in severity or frequency of natural disasters. It is irresponsible to have left this out for the readers that do not have the means to understand on their own.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomFoolery

      Oh, but it sounds so much more ominous if we ignore what a billion dollars means in real terms, and just count the number of times that lowering bar is cleared. (roll eyes)

      December 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. saywhat

    @ TallinOK
    rightly said. But then most things here are assessed that way, typically American.

    We are pretty apt at creating disasters of our own & it seems that Nature sensing this adds its own two bits ( yes folks, its Nature's two bits yet).

    December 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RUFFNUTT (pit bull trainer)

    i took the catalitic convertors off my 82 camaro... it made it alot faster..
    co2 is good for the enviorment.. it helps the trees breath better...

    December 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
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