US Natural Disasters 2021: By the Numbers

Mon Aug 08 2022

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 the next new normal. So when experts share data about US natural disasters, we always take notice. These are the numbers that caught our attention in 2021.

Natural Disasters Cost More Than $152 Billion in 2021

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the US saw 20 natural disasters that reached damages of $1 billion or more last year, for a total economic cost of $152.6 billion. This means 2021 ranks second for billion-dollar weather events and third for overall cost.

What may be more disturbing is the upward trend these record-breaking disasters are taking. NOAA’s research shows that there are more and more costly natural disasters, due to increased exposure and vulnerability, plus the impact of climate change.

14.5 Million American Homes Hit by Natural Disasters

Nearly 10 percent of US residential properties faced various natural disasters last year, according to property research firm CoreLogic. That means approximately one out of every 10 homeowners had to deal with damage from natural disasters like winter storms, hurricanes, and wildfires. The cost of the damage to the homes? About $57 billion.

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

$15 Billion in Property Damage from Winter Storms

Winter storms battered regions unaccustomed to freezing temperatures. This includes states like Texas, where an unexpected winter storm caused power outages, billions in property damage, and fatalities. CoreLogic reports that winter storms ultimately affected more than 12.7 million homes and caused more than $15 billion in property damage in 2021.

$33 Billion in Hurricane Property Damage

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active ever. The region faced 21 named storms, of these:

  • 8 made landfall in the US.
  • 7 became hurricanes.
  • 4 were major hurricanes (i.e., Category 3 or higher).

Moreover, 2021 was the seventh consecutive year that a named storm formed prior to the official start of the season on June 1. All of these storms led to $33 billion in property damage.

Hurricane Ida: The Costliest U.S. Disaster of 2021

Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana in August 2021. As the storm moved northeast, it brought with it 149 miles per hour winds and up to 10 inches of rain in some areas. The storm’s ultimate price tag of $75 billion makes Hurricane Ida the most expensive natural disaster of 2021.

Over $7 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 $7 billion in property damage.

Traditionally, we imagine twisters ripping through tornado alley, so it’s not a big surprise to see that Texas tops the list for tornadoes per state for 2021. But researchers believe tornado alley is shifting, and having Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia in the top ten seems to support their observations.

Tornadoes are also touching down at odd times of the year, like the storm cell that started in Arkansas on December 10, 2021 and moved through several states, including Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The National Weather Service confirmed 66 tornadoes on that day.

$1.5 Billion in Wildfire Damage

In drought-stricken California, wildfires destroyed or damaged 3,629 structures. Arizona saw five major fires, while Oregon and Washington each added four more. Six additional states each had at least one major wildfire in 2021.

Altogether, wildfires accounted for $1.5 billion of US natural disaster property costs. Sadly, the wildfire predictions for next year indicate we’ll see much of the same.

2 Floods Caused $2.7 Billion in Damage

NOAA identifies only two flood events that hit the billion dollar mark: one in California and one in Louisiana. That might make some people think that flooding is a minor issue, but you should note that floods can happen almost anywhere, and they’re the most common natural disaster.

You should also 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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