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Most expensive weather disasters from every state

  • Most expensive weather disasters from every state

    The struggle between nature and humankind is an ongoing saga, as old as time itself. Weather-related disasters are an inescapable part of the American landscape and have plagued the U.S. ever since New Hampshire became the final state to ratify the Constitution. 1816 was known as “The Year Without a Summer,” thanks to a volcanic eruption in modern-day Indonesia that resulted in unseasonably low temperatures and systematic crop failure throughout the U.S. After an unusually dry summer in Wisconsin, the Peshtigo Fire of 1871 destroyed roughly 1.2 million acres, killing approximately 1,200 people. In 1900, Galveston, Texas was hit with a Category 4 hurricane; 8,000 lives were lost in the storm surge, making it the deadliest weather-related disaster in United States history.

    While experts know, roughly, the cost of pre-20th century weather-related disasters in terms of human lives, it's far more challenging to assign a dollar amount to the resulting damages. Thanks to the establishment of the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), scientists and economists have a much better understanding of the financial burdens posed by modern-day catastrophes. Headquartered in Asheville, N.C., the NCEI is the world's largest active repository of environmental information.

    Since 1980, there have been over 244 weather-related disasters throughout the United States, each totaling over $1 billion in damages. Images of Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the West Coast Wildfires are seared into the nation's consciousness thanks to 24-hour news coverage and investigative documentaries. A steady uptick in extreme weather-related events in the past few decades has been linked by scientists to human activity and resultant climate change.

    Using 1980 to 2019 data gathered by the NCEI, Stacker compiled this list of the most-expensive weather disasters since 1980 and the damage and fatalities linked to them in each of the 50 states.

    Scroll through the slideshow to see how your state fared.

    You may also like: States with the most severe summer weather

  • Alabama

    - #1. Hurricane Katrina August 2005: $166.3 billion damages and 1,833 deaths
    - #2. Hurricane Harvey August 2017: $128.8 billion damages and 89 deaths
    - #3. Hurricane Irma September 2017: $51.5 billion damages and 97 deaths
    - #4. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave Summer 1988: $44 billion damages and 454 deaths
    - #5. Hurricane Ike September 2008: $36 billion damages and 112 deaths

    Mother Nature has been hard on Alabama over the years, which took a brutal beating from Katrina—the costliest hurricane in U.S. history—in 2005. The storm produced a surge of 11.45 feet in Mobile Bay, causing it to spill over into downtown Mobile.

  • Alaska

    - #1. California Wildfires Fall 2003: $5.4 billion damages and 22 deaths
    - #2. Western Wildfires Summer 2007: $3.5 billion damages and 12 deaths
    - #3. Western and Alaskan Wildfires Summer-Fall 2015: $3.3 billion damages and 12 deaths
    - #4. Western Fire Season Fall 2002: $1.9 billion damages and 21 deaths
    - #5. Numerous Wildfires 2006: $1.9 billion damages and 28 deaths

    Given its chilly temps, it often surprises people to learn that Alaska routinely suffers from devastating forest fires. In 2018, 17 fires raged throughout the state, more than anywhere else in the U.S. Most shocking is that Alaska’s most expensive natural disaster actually originated in California—wildfires there in 2003 burned almost 4 million acres across several western states.

  • Arizona

    - #1. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave 2012: $33.6 billion damages and 123 deaths
    - #2. Western Wildfires, California Firestorm Summer-Fall 2017: $18.5 billion damages and 54 deaths
    - #3. U.S. Drought Spring-Fall 2002: $13 billion damages and 0 deaths
    - #4. Western/Plains Drought/Heat Wave Spring-Fall 2013: $11.5 billion damages and 53 deaths
    - #5. Midwest/Plains/Southeast Drought Spring-Summer 2006: $7.7 billion damages and 0 deaths

    Arid Arizona is a big draw for those wishing to escape frigid northern winters. The mild climate, however, comes at a price. Currently, in its 21st year of a long-term drought, the state has a history of deaths and destruction resulting from extreme heat.

  • Arkansas

    - #1. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave Summer 1988: $44 billion damages and 454 deaths
    - #2. Hurricane Ike September 2008: $36 billion damages and 112 deaths
    - #3. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave 2012: $33.6 billion damages and 123 deaths
    - #4. Central/Eastern Drought/Heat Wave Summer-Fall 1980: $32.8 billion damages and 1,260 deaths
    - #5. Hurricane Rita September 2005: $24.6 billion damages and 119 deaths

    Despite its lack of a coastline, Arkansas has been battered by some of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history. The state—which ranks in the top 10 for natural disasters—has also been plagued by tornadoes, snow, and ice storms.

  • California

    - #1. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave 2012: $33.6 billion damages and 123 deaths
    - #2. Western Wildfires, California Firestorm Summer-Fall 2018: $24.2 billion damages and 106 deaths
    - #3. Western Wildfires, California Firestorm Summer-Fall 2017: $18.5 billion damages and 54 deaths
    - #4. U.S. Drought Spring-Fall 2002: $13 billion damages and 0 deaths
    - #5. Western/Plains Drought/Heat Wave Spring-Fall 2013: $11.5 billion damages and 53 deaths

    Devastating images of wildfires have been burned into the public consciousness in recent years, but drought and extreme heat aren't the only perils faced by Californians. Second only to Texas in terms of natural disasters, the Golden State has also been pummeled by flooding, landslides, winter storms, and even tsunamis.

  • Colorado

    - #1. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave 2012: $33.6 billion damages and 123 deaths
    - #2. Western Wildfires, California Firestorm Summer-Fall 2018: $24.2 billion damages and 106 deaths
    - #3. Southern Plains/Southwest Drought & Heat Wave Spring-Summer 2011: $13.8 billion damages and 95 deaths
    - #4. U.S. Drought Spring-Fall 2002: $13 billion damages and 0 deaths
    - #5. Western/Plains Drought/Heat Wave Spring-Fall 2013: $11.5 billion damages and 53 deaths

    For a state best known for its fabulous skiing, Colorado has weathered a surprising number of heat waves, droughts, and wildfires over the past decade. The city of Denver ranks in the top 10 urban centers at the greatest risk for environmental destruction.

  • Connecticut

    - #1. Hurricane Sandy October 2012: $72.8 billion damages and 159 deaths
    - #2. Hurricane Irene August 2011: $15.5 billion damages and 45 deaths
    - #3. Hurricane Floyd September 1999: $10.1 billion damages and 77 deaths
    - #4. East Coast Blizzard and Severe Weather March 1993: $9.8 billion damages and 270 deaths
    - #5. Southeast Ice Storm February 1994: $5.2 billion damages and 9 deaths

    Connecticut's “Gold Coast” in Fairfield County includes some of the most-valuable real estate in the nation, and tiny towns such Greenwich, Westport, and Darien fell victim to 2012 superstorm Hurricane Sandy. Waves measuring 10-12 feet hit Fairfield Beach particularly hard, redepositing sand dunes and sending entire front porches out to sea.

  • Delaware

    - #1. Hurricane Sandy October 2012: $72.8 billion damages and 159 deaths
    - #2. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave 2012: $33.6 billion damages and 123 deaths
    - #3. Hurricane Ivan September 2004: $28.1 billion damages and 57 deaths
    - #4. Southern Plains/Southwest Drought & Heat Wave Spring-Summer 2011: $13.8 billion damages and 95 deaths
    - #5. U.S. Drought Spring-Fall 2002: $13 billion damages and 0 deaths

    Delaware, like other Mid-Atlantic coastal states, frequently finds itself in the path of both snowstorms and hurricanes. Storm surges in Delaware Bay fractured the coastline, cutting new inlets into the marshy landscape, and homes in more populated areas also suffered significant flood damage.

  • Florida

    - #1. Hurricane Katrina August 2005: $166.3 billion damages and 1,833 deaths
    - #2. Hurricane Irma September 2017: $51.5 billion damages and 97 deaths
    - #3. Hurricane Andrew August 1992: $49.7 billion damages and 61 deaths
    - #4. Hurricane Ivan September 2004: $28.1 billion damages and 57 deaths
    - #5. Hurricane Wilma October 2005: $25.3 billion damages and 35 deaths

    Florida's humid climate and unique geography create a perfect storm for catastrophic hurricanes—none more deadly than monster storm Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Sunshine State just north of the Broward and Miami-Dade county line in August 2005. While only a Category 1 storm when it made landfall, it nevertheless wiped out crops, collapsed highways, and took the lives of many Floridians.

  • Georgia

    - #1. Hurricane Katrina August 2005: $166.3 billion damages and 1,833 deaths
    - #2. Hurricane Irma September 2017: $51.5 billion damages and 97 deaths
    - #3. U.S. Drought/Heat Wave 2012: $33.6 billion damages and 123 deaths
    - #4. Central/ Eastern Drought/Heat Wave Summer-Fall 1980: $32.8 billion damages and 1,260 deaths
    - #5. Hurricane Ivan September 2004: $28.1 billion damages and 57 deaths

    Hurricanes and heat waves have both wreaked havoc in Georgia over the years. Tornados that developed in the wake of Katrina caused significant damage, destroying private homes and chicken farms. The Atlanta metro area experienced a gas shortage when the storm disabled two pipelines that serviced the state.