Tag Archive for: billion-dollar disasters

Tropical Cyclones Costliest Type of Weather-Related Disaster By Far

Since 1980, tropical cyclones have been the costliest type of weather-related disaster in the United States, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The NCEI study includes events that caused at least one billion dollars in damages when adjusted for inflation.

Accounting for just under a fifth (17.6%) of the total number of events, tropical cyclones have caused more than half (53.8%) of the total damages.

Tropical cyclones also cause more deaths than any other type of weather-related disaster.

Types of Events Compared

NCEI monitors the following types of disasters:

  • Hurricanes
  • Drought
  • Inland floods
  • Severe local storms
  • Wildfires
  • Crop freeze events
  • Winter storms

Damages Quantified

Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained at least 341 billion-dollar, weather disasters (including Consumer Price Index adjustment to 2022). The total cost of these 341 events exceeds $2.4 trillion.

Out of that total, tropical cyclones have caused a combined $1.3 trillion in total damages—with an average of $22.2 billion per event. They leave droughts in the dust. Droughts are the second costliest.

Rank ordered based on average cost per event, they line up like this:

  • Tropical Cyclones – $22.2 billion
  • Drought – $10.9 billion
  • Wildfires – $6.3 billion
  • Flooding – $4.8 billion
  • Winter storms – $4.3 billion
  • Freezes – $3.9 billion
  • Severe storms – $2.4 billion

The table below contains additional information about the frequency of billion dollar events, their total costs, and the number of deaths they cause.

NCEI Billion-Dollar Storm Statistics

No Region Immune

All parts of the county experience weather-related disasters. The dominant types of disasters vary by region. For instance winter storms are more costly in the north, droughts in the plains, and tropical cyclones along seaboards.

Cost of Disasters Increasing

Both the number and cost of billion-dollar weather-related disasters are increasing over time. Here’s the breakdown by year.

NCEI Billion Dollar Time Series 1980 through Jan. 2023

Reasons Cited for Increases

Exercise caution when interpreting the upward slope of the graph above. It would be easy to attribute the slope solely to climate change and many people will,

But NCEI points out that increases in population, and material wealth over the last several decades are an important factor for higher damages. So are the locations of population concentrations and failure to adopt better building codes.

“These trends are further complicated by the fact that many population centers and infrastructure exist in vulnerable areas like coasts and river floodplains, while building codes are often insufficient in reducing damage from extreme events,” says NCEI.

Data Sources

In calculating the cost assessments, we receive input from a variety of public and private data sources including:

  • Insurance Services Office
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • National Interagency Fire Center
  • Energy Information Administration
  • U.S. Army Corps
  • State agencies
  • Other partners

Costs Include…

Each of these data sources provides key pieces of information that capture the total, direct costs—both insured and uninsured—of weather and climate events. These costs include:

  • Physical damage to residential, commercial, and government or municipal buildings
  • Material assets within a building
  • Time element losses like business interruption
  • Vehicles and boats
  • Offshore energy platforms, electrical infrastructure, military bases
  • Public infrastructure like roads, bridges, levees, buildings
  • Agricultural assets like crops, livestock, and timber
  • Disaster restoration and wildfire suppression costs

One of the key transformations is scaling up insured loss data to account for uninsured and underinsured losses, which differs by peril, geography, and asset class.

Costs Do Not Include…

However, these loss assessments do not take into account losses to natural capital or assets, health-care-related losses, or values associated with loss of life. Therefore, consider NCEI estimates conservative with respect to what is truly lost, but cannot be completely measured.

Posted by Bob Rehak based on Information from NCEI

2034 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Why Does the State that Leads the Nation in Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters Resist Minimum Drainage Standards?

Every once in a while, thoughts collide in a way that makes you see the world more clearly. Such a collision happened today. I suddenly realized that Texas, the state that leads the nation in billion-dollar, weather-and-climate related disasters, also has many developers plus city and county officials pushing back against higher minimum drainage standards that would reduce flooding. At a time when those disasters are increasing in frequency!

How Proposed Drainage Standards Will Affect Developers

My last post talked about “Minimum Drainage Standard Recommendations for Communities In or Draining Into Harris County.” A reader asked how the proposed changes would affect developers.

I replied, “The proposed changes would force developers in the future to install detention ponds and storm drains large enough to help reduce flooding. It would also prohibit them from reducing the floodwater storage capacity of the 500 year floodplain. Finally, it would force them to raise the level of homes above the 500-year floodplain or flood-proof them.”

Then I added, “From a flood prevention point of view, these are all good things. But from a developer’s point of view, they add expense. If you buy a home in an area that complies with these standards, it will probably mean a higher-priced, but much safer home. I hear that developers and some civic officials are already pushing back against these proposed changes.”

Natural Disaster Costs, Frequencies

After sending the reply, I went to the NOAA site to find information about natural disasters, their costs, their frequency and their primary locations.

I found this fascinating story about the increasing frequency of billion-dollar weather disasters. I pulled the three charts below from it.

Source: NOAA.

The last decade had twice as many billion-dollar weather disasters as the previous decade and four times more than the decade of the 1980s. The last five years had 69% of all such disasters in the entire 40 year period.

Tropical Cyclones and flooding comprised 29.5% all these billion-dollar disasters.

Source: NOAA.

Reason for Increasing Costs, Even After Adjusting for Inflation

In explaining these rising costs, NOAA says, “These trends are … complicated by the fact that much of the growth has taken place in vulnerable areas like coasts and river floodplains. Vulnerability is especially high where building codes are insufficient for reducing damage from extreme events.”

Texas Leads Nation

And who leads the nation in billion-dollar, weather-and-climate-related disasters? Texas.

Connecting Some Tragic Dots

So there you have it.

The state with the most billion-dollar disasters has many developers and civic leaders pushing back against higher minimum drainage standards at a time when major weather disasters are increasing.

Food for thought as this debate begins. Kind of makes you wonder about the wisdom of permitting starter homes in flood plains next to raging rivers, building 2200 acre developments without any detention ponds, and encouraging developers to get their water to rivers faster in floods.

New Northpark Woods development in Montgomery County next to San Jacinto West Fork and its sand pits.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/8/2020

1014 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 263 after Imelda