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NOAA: Natural disasters alone caused a loss of $35 billion so far in 2011

Now that North Carolina has begun assessing the loss left behind by Hurricane Irene, a look at how natural disasters devastated the United States economy reveals $750 billion in losses to the nation in the last 31 years.

The U.S. has sustained 108 weather-related disasters since 1980 with the total normalized losses  exceeding $750 billion, adjusted to 2011 figures using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), according to an estimate by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. In 2011 alone nine major natural disasters had hit the nation causing economic damage worth $35 billion.

Groundhog Day Blizzard from Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, 2011, caused large winter storm impacting many central, eastern and northeastern states. The city of Chicago was brought to a virtual standstill as between 1 and 2 feet of snow fell over the area. Insured losses from the disaster amounted to greater than $1.1 billion and the total losses stood at greater than $2.0 billion, besides 36 deaths.

Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes, April 4-5, 2011: Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (KS, MO, IA, IL, WI, KY, GA, TN, NC, SC) with an estimated 46 tornadoes causing over $1.6 billion insured losses and the total losses were greater than $2.3 billion, besides 9 deaths.

Southeast/Midwest Tornadoes, April 8-11, 2011: Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (NC, SC, TN, AL, TX, OK, KS, IA, WI) with an estimated 59 tornadoes, which caused over $1.5 billion insured losses; total losses greater than $2.2 billion; and it resulted in numerous injuries though no deaths were reported.

Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes, April 14-16, 2011: Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (OK, TX, AR, MS, AL, GA, NC, SC, VA, PA) with an estimated 160 tornadoes. Despite the large overall number of tornadoes, few were classified as intense, with just 14 EF-3, and no EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes identified. Over $1.4 billion insured losses; total losses greater than $2.0 billion; 38 deaths, including 22 reported in North Carolina alone.

Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest Tornadoes, April 25-30, 2011: Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (AL, AR, LA, MS, GA, TN, VA, KY, IL, MO, OH, TX, OK) with an estimated 305 tornadoes and 327 deaths. Of those fatalities, 240 occurred in Alabama. The deadliest tornado of the outbreak, an EF-5, hit northern Alabama, killing 78 people. Several major metropolitan areas were directly impacted by strong tornadoes including Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville in Alabama and Chattanooga, Tennessee, causing the estimated damage costs to soar. Over $6.6 billion insured losses; total losses greater than $9.0 billion; 327 deaths.

Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes, May 22-27, 2011 Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (MO, TX, OK, KS, AR, GA, TN, VA, KY, IN, IL, OH, WI, MN, PA) with an estimated 180 tornadoes and 177 deaths. Notably, an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO resulting in at least 141 deaths, making it the deadliest single tornado to strike the U.S. since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950. Over $4.9 billion insured losses for event; total losses greater than $7.0 billion; 177 deaths.

Southern Plains/Southwest Drought and Wildfires, Spring-Summer, 2011: Drought, heatwave, and wildfires have created major impacts across the Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, southern Kansas, and western Arkansas and Louisiana. In Texas and Oklahoma, respectively, 75% and 63% of range and pasture conditions were classified in ‘very poor’ condition as of mid-August. Wildfire fighting/suppression costs for the region are also ~$1 million / day with over 2,000 homes and structures lost. The total direct losses (as of August 15) to agriculture, cattle and structures are well over $5.0 billion; both direct and total economic losses will rise dramatically as the event continues.

Mississippi River flooding, Spring-Summer, 2011: Persistent rainfall (nearly 300 percent normal precipitation amounts in the Ohio Valley) combined with melting snowpack caused historical flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Estimated economic loss ranges from $2.0-4.0 billion; at least 2 deaths. Below are more detailed stats, which are preliminary, as the event continues to unfold (as of 8/15): $500 million to agriculture in Arkansas; $320 million in damage to Memphis, Tennessee; $800 million to agriculture in Mississippi; $317 million to agriculture and property in Missouri’s Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway; $80 million for the first 30 days of flood fighting efforts in Louisiana.

Upper Midwest Flooding, Summer, 2011: Melting of an above-average snow pack across the Northern Rocky Mountains combined with above-average precipitation caused the Missouri and Souris Rivers to swell beyond their banks across the Upper Midwest (MT, ND, SD, NE, IA, KS, MO). An estimated 11,000 people were forced to evacuate Minot, North Dakota due to the record high water level of the Souris River, where 4,000 homes were flooded. Numerous levees were breached along the Missouri River, flooding thousands of acres of farmland. Estimated losses exceed $2.0 billion as the event continues to unfold (as of 8/15). The flooding also stretched into the Canadian Prairies, where property and agriculture losses were expected to surpass $1.0 billion, at least 5 deaths.

Hurricane Irene, Aug. 2011: Though Hurricane Irene is yet to finish its cycle, North Carolina has woken up to assess the damage done by it and so far 10 people were killed in the storm. Since New York is likely to bear the brunt of its fury, losses are likely to be greater.

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