US natural disasters: By the numbers

Mon Feb 26 2024

A tornado funnel spins beneath a supercell thunderstorm during a severe weather event

As an insurance company, we work with a lot of statistics. Stats can help us understand what's going on in the world, and we can use that information to better prepare for what’s next. So when experts share data about US natural disasters, we always take notice. These are the numbers that caught our attention in 2023.

Natural disasters cost more than $92 billion in 2023

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the US saw 28 natural disasters that reached damages of $1 billion or more last year, for a total economic cost of $92.9 billion. This means 2023 ranks first for billion-dollar weather events and ninth for overall cost.

What may be more disturbing is the upward trend these record-breaking disasters are taking. NOAA’s research shows the annual average from 1980 to 2023 is 8.5 events. The annual average for the last five years? 20.4 events. 

The damages homeowners faced in these natural disasters were often covered by their home insurance, but that’s not the only step people can take to protect their homes and loved ones. Creating a disaster preparedness plan can also help keep everyone safe.

$1.8 billion in property damage from winter storms

By most accounts, winter 2023 was mild for much of the US. But there was still a winter storm that reached the billion dollar threshold. Snow, high winds, and freezing temperatures hit the Northeast in February, causing widespread power outages in Massachusetts and a wind chill of -108° Fahrenheit in Mount Washington, New Hampshire.

$4 billion in hurricane property damage 

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season was also less severe than some recent years, but overall hurricane activity was above average from June 1 through November 30. The unusual season brought 20 named storms, of these:

  • Five made landfall. Two of the storms that made landfall were hurricanes, and only one of them hit the US. The rest were tropical storms.

  • Seven became hurricanes. This number matches the average number of hurricanes in a season.

  • Hurricane Idalia was the only major hurricane to make landfall. Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 storm. Hurricane Tammy hit Barbuda in the Leeward islands as a Category 1, and Hurricane Lee was a Category 5, but made landfall as a post-tropical cyclone.

Over $50 billion in damage from severe weather 

Severe weather may not sound like a natural disaster, but this category includes tornadoes and hailstorms that can do serious harm – which explains the $54 billion in property damage. Taken together, these severe weather events caused the greatest amount of damage in 2023 in terms of dollars. 

What was the most damaging single event for the US last year? The drought that impacted Midwest and Southern states from April 1 through September 30 caused $14.5 billion in damage.

$5.6 billion in wildfire damage

Last year, the US saw the least number of acres burned and the third least number of fires in a 24 year period, according to the Annual 2023 wildfires report. But there was still one fire that caused over $5 billion in total damages – the devastating wildfire on Maui Island, made worse by hurricane winds, destroyed Lahaina and took the lives of 100 people.

4 floods caused $9.2 billion in damage

NOAA identifies four flood events that hit the billion dollar mark. That might make some people think that flooding is a minor issue, but floods can happen almost anywhere, and they’re the most common natural disaster.

You should note that flooding is generally not covered by homeowners insurance – including floods caused by hurricane storm surge. For that risk, you need separate flood coverage.


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