US Hit with 12 Natural Disasters in 2016 Costing $1 Billion or More

In 2016, the United States experienced six flooding events that exceeded the once-in-a-thousand-years expectation level. The dollar loss from flooding alone last year totaled around $17 billion, led by the August floods in Louisiana, which caused $10 billion in damage, and Hurricane Matthew, which caused $3 billion in flood damage along the Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Florida.

The data were reported Thursday by CoreLogic in its “2016 Natural Hazard Risk Summary & Analysis,” using data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and reported in the agency’s “U.S. Billion Dollar Weather & Climate Disasters” report that includes data for the past 36 years.

In addition to flood damages, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recorded 943 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in 2016, with more than 60% occurring in Oklahoma, and the National Interagency Fire Center reported more than 5.4 million acres burned in 2016 in 62,864 separate incidents.

Overall damage from wind hazard (not including tornadoes) affected nearly 31% of the Lower 48 states with gusts of 60 miles per hour or more. The windiest city in the United States is Nashville, Tennessee, which registered 21 wind-related events and maximum wind-speed of 72 mph. Other cities with a lot of wind are Reno, Nevada; Jackson, Mississippi; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Columbia, South Carolina. Cambridge, Massachusetts, experienced 17 wind events in 2016, fourth-most in the country, just ahead of Cincinnati with 16.

Severe hail storms affected about 7.8% (243,647 square miles) of the Lower 48 with pellets at least one-inch or more in diameter. Hail damage in Texas alone topped $5.5 billion last year, with one storm in San Antonio causing damage of about $1.4 billion from baseball-sized hail. The San Antonio storm was the costliest hail storm in Texas history.

Tornado activity last year was near average with 1,059 tornadoes in the preliminary count from the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center.

Since Hurricane Sandy struck the mid-Atlantic coast in 2012, the country had little serious hurricane activity until Hurricane Alex blew up a category 1 storm in January of last year. That’s the first January hurricane recorded since 1955. Atlantic storms formed in seven different months last year, with the September-October category 5 Hurricane Matthew causing some $4 billion to $6 billion in insured losses, according to CoreLogic, and $10 billion in total damages according to NOAA data.

According to NOAA’s billion-dollar storm report, here are last year’s biggest weather-related events ranked in order of the number of deaths caused by the event and the inflation-adjusted estimated cost. NOAA’s list includes 15 events or episodes of severe weather.

  • Hurricane Matthew: 49 deaths; $10 billion
  • West Virginia flooding and Ohio Valley tornadoes: 23 deaths; $1 billion
  • Western and Southeastern states wildfires: 21 deaths; $2 billion
  • Louisiana flooding (August): 13 deaths; $10 billion
  • Southeast and Eastern tornadoes (February): 10 deaths; $1 billion
  • Houston flooding: 8 deaths; $2.7 billion
  • South and Southeast tornadoes (April): 6 deaths; $2.4 billion
  • Texas and Louisiana flooding (March): 5 deaths; $2.3 billion
  • Plains tornadoes and severe Central weather (May): 2 deaths; $1.7 billion
  • Southern severe weather (March): 1 death; $1.2 billion
  • West, Northeast, Southeast drought: no deaths; $3.5 billion
  • North and Central Texas hail storm (April): no deaths; $3.5 billion
  • North Texas hail storm (March): no deaths; $2.1 billion
  • Rockies and Northeast severe weather (July): no deaths; $1.5 billion
  • Rockies and Central tornadoes and severe weather (May): no deaths; $1.1 billion