Special Report

Worst Natural Disasters in the US in the Last 10 Years

Source: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

10. Western Wildfires, California Firestorm
> Deaths: 54
> Est. cost: $18.7 billion
> Disaster classification: Wildfire
> Date: Summer-Fall 2017

Drought conditions lead to one of the deadliest and most costly firestorms in U.S. history. The Tubbs, Atlas, Nuns, and Redwood Valley fires in California in October killed dozens and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. December fires in Los Angeles burned hundreds of homes, and in Montana, over a million acres burned. The wildfires caused a total of nearly $19 billion in damage and were the costliest in U.S. history to date.

Source: Win McNamee / Getty Images

9. Hurricane Harvey
> Deaths: 89
> Est. cost: $130 billion
> Disaster classification: Tropical cyclone
> Date: August 2017

Hurricane Harvey caused historic flooding in and around Houston, Texas. Nearly 7 million people lived in areas that reported over 30 inches of rainfall in a single week. Many of them reported 45 to 50 inches of rainfall over that period. The devastation was widespread, as 89 deaths were reported, over 200,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and over 30,000 people were displaced. The storm cased an estimated $130 billion in damage — making it by far the most costly in the last decade and the second most costly natural disaster since at least 1980, trailing only Hurricane Katrina, a storm that caused over $167 billion in damage.

Source: Erich Schlegel / Getty Images

8. Southern Plains/Southwest Drought & Heat Wave
> Deaths: 95
> Est. cost: $13.9 billion
> Disaster classification: Drought
> Date: Spring-Summer 2011

Several Southern Plains states were affected by serious drought for much of the year. From January through October, Texas received only 11 inches of rain, less than half the average of 24 inches for that period. Oklahoma reported less than 19 inches over the same period, compared to an average of 30 inches. The effects on agriculture were devastating as over half of all rangeland and pastures in the two states were classified as in “very poor” condition for much of 2011. New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, and Louisiana were also affected by drought and heatwave conditions. Many deaths were also attributed to the heatwave over the same period.

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

7. Hurricane Irma
> Deaths: 97
> Est. cost: $52.0 billion
> Disaster classification: Tropical cyclone
> Date: September 2017

With a death toll of 97, Hurricane Irma is the sixth deadliest hurricane to hit the United States in the last 40 years. Irma made landfall as a Category 4 storm in the Florida Keys, where it destroyed one-quarter of all buildings and damaged nearly two-thirds of buildings. It had previously devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm. The hurricane brought damage from storm surges and high winds to coastal portions of mainland Florida and South Carolina. Charleston and Jacksonville reported near record-breaking flooding.

Hurricane Irma brought sustained wind speeds of 185 mph for 37 hours — the longest stretch ever recorded by satellite.

Source: David McNew / Getty Images

6. Western Wildfires, California Firestorm
> Deaths: 106
> Est. cost: $24.5 billion
> Disaster classification: Wildfire
> Date: Summer-Fall 2018

Over the second half of 2018, California experienced its deadliest, costliest, and largest wildfires on record. The Camp Fire, which started in November in Butte County in the northern part of the state, destroyed more than 18,500 buildings and killed dozens of people. The Mendocino Complex Fire, which started in the summer about 100 miles north of San Francisco, burned nearly half a million acres. Other devastating fires in the period include the Carr Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California.

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