1/ Robert A. Mansker // Shutterstock
Climate disasters are experienced all over the world; the United States in particular has seen some incredibly damaging and dangerous storms, floods, wildfires, droughts, and heat waves over the past 39 years. Many of these disasters have had lasting effects, especially for those living in the affected regions, and have caused billions of dollars in damage. In just the past year, the United States saw 11 weather and climate events that resulted in 105 deaths and cost more than $1 billion dollars each.
Stacker has ranked the most expensive climate disasters by the billions since 1980 by total cost of all damages, adjusted for inflation. Data were used from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Some more recent disasters, such as the California wildfires last June, are not part of the list, as the data and losses are still being compiled and assessed.
Read on to learn of 50 of the most expensive climate disasters in recent decades in the U.S.
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2/ NOAA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $5.67 billion
- Total deaths: 7
- Begin date: Sept. 11, 1992
- End date: Sept. 12, 1992
On Sept. 11, 1992, Hawaii was struck by the most lethal and devastating hurricane it had experienced since 1900. Category 4 Hurricane Iniki—which in Hawaiian means “sharp and piercing, as wind or pangs of love”—ripped through the small island of Kauai and part of Oahu with its 130 to 160 mph winds. More than 100 people were injured and seven were killed. The storm destroyed more than 1,500 homes and caused major damage to 5,000 dwellings. More than 14,350 homes were affected and many were without power for weeks; the storm took out 50% of Kauai's power lines.
3/ Leif Skoogfors FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $5.73 billion
- Total deaths: 51
- Begin date: May 3, 2003
- End date: May 10, 2003
In May 2003, the United States saw an unprecedented number of tornadoes and severe storms, mainly affecting the Midwest; the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee valleys; and parts of the Southeast. From May 3 to 10, 400 tornadoes—the most ever recorded in a week—were reported with one or more occurring each day in 26 different states, and 723 severe wind and 1,782 hail events also were reported that week. This outbreak of severe weather resulted in the death of 51 people, 642 injuries, the destruction of more than 2,300 homes and businesses, and damage to 11,200 buildings.
4/ David Saville / FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $5.8 billion
- Total deaths: 11
- Begin date: Feb. 3, 1997
- End date: May 24, 1997
After a winter of heavy snow and ice-jammed water sources, and the onset of spring, severe flooding resulted in 11 deaths, displaced more than 60,000 residents, and thousands were affected as flooding took its toll on agriculture, the infrastructure, homes and businesses in the Northern Plains. In East Grand Forks, Minn., only eight of almost 9,000 homes were undamaged by flood waters. After the Red River broke a century-old record, cresting at 39.6 feet—22.6 feet above flood level—90% of the city of Grand Forks was deluged.
5/ AdinaVoicu // Pixabay
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $6.2 billion
- Total deaths: 25
- Begin date: Oct. 1, 1991
- End date: Oct. 31, 1991
For the entire month of October in 1991, Oakland, Calif., saw one of its worst firestorms in history as more than 3,000 homes went up in flames, 1,600 acres burned, 25 people were killed, and 150 were injured. Causing more than $6.2 billion in damage, the firestorm was the most expensive urban wildfire in the United States since 1980. A mix of intense winds and dry land resulted in the wildfire burning in some places at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and devouring homes in as little as 10 minutes.
6/ USDA NRCS South Dakota // fFickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $6.24 billion
- Total deaths: 0
- Begin date: June 1, 1989
- End date: Nov. 30, 1989
Despite predictions earlier in the year of bountiful harvests and the unlikeliness of drought because of heavy snows in the Northern Plains, the summer of 1989 resulted in one of the most devastating droughts in history. Eleven states in the region suffered huge agricultural losses and damage totaling $6.24 billion. The drought lasted from June until late November.
7/ USDAgov // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $6.7 billion
- Total deaths: 0
- Begin date: Dec. 18, 1990
- End date: Dec. 25, 1990
About 200,000 acres of crops were destroyed and 100,000 farm workers were unemployed after a severe freeze hit California, mainly affecting the central and southern parts of the San Joaquin Valley. The freeze blew in on Dec. 18 and stuck around for a week, affecting the state's $8 billion fruit and vegetable industry, including its $200 million avocado crop and $438 million navel orange crop. California supplies 85% of the nation's avocados and is the leading producer of navel oranges.
8/ USFWS // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $6.9 billion
- Total deaths: 35
- Begin date: March 1, 2003
- End date: Nov. 30, 2003
From March to the end of November 2003, much of the Western and Central United States saw a severe drought and heatwave that killed 35 people and caused $7 billion in damages. The drought affected 17 states.
9/ DVIDSHUB // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $7.1 billion
- Total deaths: 53
- Begin date: Aug. 31, 2008
- End date: Sept. 3, 2008
In August 2008, 1.9 million people evacuated Louisiana—the most in that state's history—in preparation for Hurricane Gustav, which made landfall on Aug. 31 and raged until Sept. 3. High winds, storm surges, high tides, and flooding affected not only Louisiana but also Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Other areas affected included the Caribbean, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic where nearly 180 people were killed and tens of thousands were left homeless.
10/ USDAgov // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $7.4 billion
- Total deaths: 140
- Begin date: March 1, 2000
- End date: Nov. 30, 2000
By the summer of 2000, 19 states across Western, Central, and Southeast United States suffered from an intense drought and heatwave that killed 140 people. The extreme dryness and heat also gave rise to the worst wildfire in 50 years in the West. Across the United States, 74,571 fires burned more than 6.6 million acres. More than 35% of the contiguous United States was enduring severe to extreme drought conditions by the end of August.
11/ USDAgov // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $7.61 billion
- Total deaths: 0
- Begin date: March 1, 2006
- End date: Aug. 31, 2006
In the late winter and into the late summer of 2006, a drought with its eye on the Great Plains region also wreaked havoc in states across the Midwest and Southeast—by July, 52% of the contiguous United States was suffering from moderate to extreme drought. The drought affected crops and water sources, as well as livestock, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to proclaim drought disasters in many states.
12/ Cynthia Hunter FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $7.62 billion
- Total deaths: 55
- Begin date: Sept. 18, 2003
- End date: Sept. 19, 2003
Category 2 Hurricane Isabel and its 100 mph raging winds hit land between North Carolina's Cape Lookout and Ocracoke Island on Sept. 18, 2003. Some 700,000 inhabitants lost power, and one out of every two or three trees was ripped from the ground. The coasts of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland were affected by considerable storm surge. In Washington D.C. tidal flooding records were exceeded. Seven other states were subjected to Isabel's fury as wind damage and 4 to 12 inches of rain pounded the East Coast.
13/ USDAgov // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $7.64 billion
- Total deaths: 0
- Begin date: June 1, 1983
- End date: Aug. 31, 1983
In the summer of 1983, many states in the Southeast experienced a rather severe flash drought. Eleven states were affected, and in Kentucky, Louisville saw its second-worst drought in the 20th century, experiencing dryness so severe that most of the state's vegetation was forced into dormancy and many towns suffered water shortages.
14/ U.S. Department of Defense // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $7.7 billion
- Total deaths: 21
- Begin date: Aug. 17, 1983
- End date: Aug. 20, 1983
After a three-year, hurricane-free streak in the U.S., Category 3 Hurricane Alicia made landfall in Galveston, Texas, Aug. 17, 1983. The storm brought with it winds up to 100 mph and gusts up to 127 mph. The storm also set off record-breaking numbers of tornadoes in southeast Texas with 14 being reported in one day. Nine more ravaged Houston on day two. In all, 3,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, 21 people were killed, thousands were injured, and, at the time, Hurricane Alicia set a record in Texas for the $7.7 billion in damages it caused.
15/ Dave Gatley FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $7.87 billion
- Total deaths: 27
- Begin date: Oct. 4, 1995
- End date: Oct. 6, 1995
In October 1995 the Southeast endured the wrath of Category 3 Hurricane Opal. The hurricane ravaged Florida, Alabama, western Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and the western Carolinas with its gusting winds and flooding. Most of the damage came from storm surges of up to 10 to 15 feet along the coastal areas of the Florida panhandle. More than 1,300 homes and 1,000 boats were destroyed or extensively damaged. Left in the hurricane's wake was a massive $7.87 billion bill for such things as destroyed water and sewer systems, roadways, and phone and electric utilities.
16/ Dave Gatley FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $8.16 billion
- Total deaths: 37
- Begin date: Sept. 5, 1996
- End date: Sept. 8, 1996
In early September 1996, Hurricane Fran hit land at the tip of Cape Fear, N.C., and moved into Virginia with 115 mph sustained winds. Twenty-six people died in the Category 3 hurricane that left North Carolina with its costliest bill from a climate disaster—$8.16 billion—at the time. Some areas saw more than 10 inches of rain and 24-hour downpours, and Fran caused significant agricultural losses, as well.
17/ USDA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $8.34 billion
- Total deaths: 0
- Begin date: Jan. 1, 2008
- End date: Dec. 31, 2008
More than half of the country was affected by a prolonged drought that included large parts of the Southeast, West, the Great Plains, northwestern Great Lakes, and south-central Texas. The drought contributed to agricultural and livestock losses and many communities adopted water and burning restrictions. In Tennessee, the governor declared an agricultural disaster in 39 counties. North Dakota saw its driest winter in 114 years, and Minnesota saw its second-driest.
18/ NRCS Montana // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $9.2 billion
- Total deaths: 32
- Begin date: May 5, 1995
- End date: May 7, 1995
In early May 1995, the South Plains region, including Texas, Oklahoma, southeast Louisiana, and Mississippi, saw severe weather and storms that included heavy rains, hail, and tornadoes. New Orleans, was the hardest hit experiencing 10 to 25 inches of rain over five days. All told, 32 people died and the severe weather caused more than $9 billion damage.
19/ Dave Gatley FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $9.3 billion
- Total deaths: 16
- Begin date: Sept. 20, 1998
- End date: Sept. 29, 1998
The second-most catastrophic hurricane in the Atlantic basin for 1998 was Category 2 Hurricane Georges which struck Sept. 20. Georges ravaged Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Florida Keys, and the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Some areas had totals of 1 to 2 feet of rain over two days. In the end, 602 people died, mostly in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the hurricane caused more than $9 billion damage.
20/ Liz Roll FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $9.78 billion
- Total deaths: 270
- Begin date: March 11, 1993
- End date: March 14, 1993
On March 11, 1993, “The Storm of the Century”—the most catastrophic and expensive winter storm in the United States since 1980—hit the entire East Coast with blizzards and severe weather that left many Eastern and Northeastern states under 2 to 4 feet of snow, and enduring hurricane-like winds, flooding, or tornadoes. Power was out to more than 10 million homes as the storm covered more than 550,000 square miles and affected almost 120 million people. All told, 270 people died in 13 states and 48 people were reported missing at sea.
21/ Dave Saville FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $9.9 billion
- Total deaths: 77
- Begin date: Sept. 14, 1999
- End date: Sept. 16, 1999
On Sept. 14, 1999, Category 2 Hurricane Floyd struck the East Coast, hitting North Carolina first and the hardest. Twelve other states were affected and 10 were declared major disaster areas. The large size and range of Floyd resulted in heavier and longer-lasting rains—10 to 20 inches over two days in some areas. The largest peacetime evacuation in the United States occurred as more than 2.6 million fled their homes. The total death count was 77, with 51 in North Carolina. More than 80,000 homes were destroyed or damaged and 500,000 households were without electricity.
22/ Mark Wolfe FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $10.2 billion
- Total deaths: 28
- Begin date: Sept. 15, 2004
- End date: Sept. 29, 2004
Florida was hit by its fourth and final hurricane for a record-breaking year on Sept. 26, 2004, when Hurricane Jeanne made landfall on Hutchinson Island. The Category 3 hurricane was the deadliest and costliest of the 2004 season. After rampaging through Florida with 115 mph winds and heavy rain, Jeanne continued up the coast, hitting nine more states. It was the 12th- deadliest Atlantic hurricane and the 15th-most expensive in U.S. history.
23/ Greg Dumas NOAA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $10.37 billion
- Total deaths: 177
- Begin date: May 22, 2011
- End date: May 27, 2011
In May 2011, a flurry of tornadoes—an estimated 180—broke out all over the central and southern United States, resulting in 177 deaths and making that year the seventh-deadliest for tornado fatalities.
24/ Jonathan Shaw US National Guard // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $10.6 billion
- Total deaths: 49
- Begin date: Oct. 8, 2016
- End date: Oct. 12, 2016
After skirting along Florida's coastline, Hurricane Matthew struck on Oct. 8, 2016, just south of Myrtle Beach, S.C. Flooding significantly affected coastal Georgia, the eastern Carolinas, and southeast Virginia, and North Carolina experienced historic levels of river flooding. More than 100,000 homes and businesses were damaged. The flooding also wreaked havoc on agriculture, leading to huge losses in poultry, orchards, vegetables, and other crops. Hurricane Matthew was recorded as reaching Category 5 intensity at the lowest altitude in the Atlantic Basin ever and resulted in at least 585 deaths.
25/ Paul Meeker US National Guard // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $10.6 billion
- Total deaths: 13
- Begin date: Aug. 12, 2016
- End date: Aug. 15, 2016
For three days in August 2016, Louisiana was drenched in 20 to 30 inches of heavy rain, causing historic flooding in a majority of its southern region. At least 20 parishes were declared disaster areas. More than 70,000 homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged, 30,000 people had to be rescued, and at least 13 died as a result of the most destructive flooding since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
26/ Al Jazeera English // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $11.36 billion
- Total deaths: 53
- Begin date: March 1, 2013
- End date: Nov. 30, 2013
2013 was a dry year for every state west of the Mississippi River as each experienced some level of drought and heat wave conditions. The drought began in the Midwest and Plains states and spread to Western states in March. By September, more than 50% of the contiguous United States was in a state of drought. California experienced its driest year on record as 97% of the state suffered from drought.
27/ Thilo Parg // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $11.65 billion
- Total deaths: 321
- Begin date: April 25, 2011
- End date: April 28, 2011
Over the course of three days, 343 tornadoes spawned in at least 13 states—with a particular proclivity for metropolitan areas—in the Central and Southern United States in what was one of the deadliest, most destructive outbreaks in history. Alabama was hit the hardest as an EF-4 tornado struck in the northern region, affecting Tuscaloosa and Birmingham and killing at least 78 people and injuring thousands more. In the wake of hundreds of other tornadoes and three EF-5 level strikes, thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed or significantly damaged.
28/ Andrea Booher FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $11.85 billion
- Total deaths: 24
- Begin date: April 1, 2008
- End date: June 30, 2008
The Midwest was subjected to continued heavy rain as storm system after storm system rolled through in 2008. Billions of dollars in agricultural loss and property damage were the result of mass flooding in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Historic water levels were reported all over the Midwest with some exceeding 500-year levels.
29/ Andrea Booher FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $12.27 billion
- Total deaths: 43
- Begin date: June 5, 2001
- End date: June 17, 2001
On June 5, 2001, the deadliest and costliest tropical or subtropical storm struck, bringing heavy rains to Texas and Louisiana, which each saw rainfall between 30 and 40 inches. Severe flooding followed, and Allison headed northeast to Mississippi, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Each state had loss of life and property; in all, at least 45,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, thousands of public facilities and businesses were damaged, and 43 were killed.
30/ Al Jazeera English // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $12.77 billion
- Total deaths: 0
- Begin date: March 1, 2002
- End date: Nov. 30, 2002
2002 was another dry year with at least 39% of the contiguous United States experiencing severe to extreme drought in July. The longstanding drought was decreased to 22% of the contiguous United States by the end of December because storms brought heavy rains. The affected regions had the lowest precipitation levels in history, affecting water sources, and destroying crops and pastureland. Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon endured large wildfires that year, as well.
31/ Jocelyn Augustino FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $13.32 billion
- Total deaths: 48
- Begin date: Sept. 3, 2004
- End date: Sept. 9, 2004
Making landfall on Sept. 5 on the Florida peninsula near Sewall's Point, Category 2 Hurricane Frances started its course of destruction along the Southeast with its 105 mph winds and heavy rains that caused mass flooding and spawned more than 117 tornadoes. Florida's citrus crop was devastated, and more than 1.8 million residents lost electricity. Georgia, the Carolinas, and New York also sustained significant damage from flooding by 6 to 20 inches of rain, and 48 were killed in the storm's course.
32/ Al Jazeera English // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $13.68 billion
- Total deaths: 95
- Begin date: March 1, 2011
- End date: Aug. 31, 2011
From March to the end of August in 2011, severe drought and heatwaves impacted much of the Southern Plains and Southwest United States. Range and pasture lands were in poor condition for much of the 2011 growing season and the drought took its toll on Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, and Louisiana. At least 95 people died.
33/ Ann Froschauer USFWS // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $15.38 billion
- Total deaths: 45
- Begin date: Aug. 26, 2011
- End date: Aug. 28, 2011
Hurricane Irene hit land in North Carolina before moving up the East Coast, affecting eight other states, perhaps none more so than Vermont. The true beast of the Category 1 hurricane was its torrential rainfall that caused mass flooding. Vermont saw more than 11 inches of rain and more than $733 million in damage. More than seven million people lost power and 45 were killed, and Irene also spawned numerous tornadoes. In New York, which also sustained massive rains, thousands of flights were canceled and major transportation services were shut down.
34/ Kilmer Media // Shutterstock
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $18.36 billion
- Total deaths: 54
- Begin date: June 1, 2017
- End date: Dec. 31, 2017
Over the summer of 2017, many parts of the western United States and California experienced historic firestorms causing more than $18 billion in damage—the costliest wildfire series in history. About 9,000 massive wildfires ripped through Northern California in October burning over 1.2 million acres, destroying more than 15,000 homes and businesses, and killing 44. More wildfires broke out across other western states, roasting 9.8 million acres in their paths. The resulting smoke was so extreme over Labor Day weekend that its cloud traveled all the way to Paris.
35/ U.S. Navy // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $18.7 billion
- Total deaths: 86
- Begin date: Sept. 21, 1989
- End date: Sept. 22, 1989
In September 1989, Category 4 Hurricane Hugo left the Carolinas with astronomical damage caused by its 140 mph winds and storm surges. The event also mesmerized the country as the drama of Hugo—the most destructive hurricane at that time—unfolded. In Bull's Bay just north of Charleston, S.C., a nearly 20-foot storm surge devoured the town. In the Carolinas alone, Hugo destroyed or damaged more than 100,000 homes and killed at least 19 people.
36/ Andrea Booher FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $21.76 billion
- Total deaths: 35
- Begin date: Aug. 13, 2004
- End date: Aug. 14, 2004
In the middle of August 2004, Category 4 Hurricane Charley hit land near the Punta Gorda area in southwest Florida. The 145 mph winds and storm surges resulted in major damage to coastal areas resulting in thousands of homes and businesses being destroyed, 2 million without electricity, and 25 of Florida's 67 counties declared as federal disaster areas. Charley continued northeast up the coast, devastating Florida's citrus crop and bringing heavy rains and gusting winds into the Carolinas and Virginia.
37/ Jorge Intriago // US National Guard
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $22.5 billion
- Total deaths: 51
- Begin date: Sept. 13, 2018
- End date: Sept. 16, 2018
Though Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm, it was slow moving and large, and produced intense wind and rain damage to the Carolinas. Florence brought forth 100 mph winds, storm surges as high as nine to 13 feet, and 20 to 35 inches of rain. The amount of rainfall was the biggest factor for why Florence was so devastating and deadly—51 fatalities resulted—as flood-height records were surpassed.
38/ Leif Skoogfors FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $24.4 billion
- Total deaths: 119
- Begin date: Sept. 20, 2005
- End date: Sept. 24, 2005
Hurricane Rita hugely impacted the Texas-Louisiana border coastal region, but also affected the Florida panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Category 3 hurricane brought strong storm surges of up to 15 feet, wind damage, and inland flooding, and spawned at least 92 tornadoes. At least 119 people were killed, but most of the deaths came as 3.7 million Texans attempted to evacuate, causing a huge traffic jam—some stranded for an entire day. More than 100 people died.
39/ Jocelyn Augustino FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $25.08 billion
- Total deaths: 35
- Begin date: Oct. 24, 2005
- End date: Oct. 24, 2005
Category 3 Hurricane Wilma collided with southwest Florida touching down near Everglades City on Oct. 24, 2005. Wilma—with its maximum sustained 120 mph winds and heavy rains—resulted in heavy flooding as it hurried across the state touching on the Miami/Fort Lauderdale region and exited to the coast again the same day. At least 10 people were killed and 6 million lost power—the most in Florida history. Wilma was recorded as a Category 5 at the lowest pressure ever in the Atlantic Basin while still offshore and as the most rapidly intensifying with a 105 mph increase in wind speed in just a day.
40/ Jocelyn Augustino FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $27.9 billion
- Total deaths: 57
- Begin date: Sept. 12, 2004
- End date: Sept. 21, 2004
Category 3 Hurricane Ivan came ashore on the Gulf Coast of Alabama on Sept. 16, bringing 130 mph winds, heavy rains, storm surges, and extreme flooding that affected 17 states. Ivan also spawned more than 100 tornadoes, and waves reached as high as 50 feet along the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. Hurricane Ivan caused almost $28 billion in damage, and at least 57 people were killed. As a result of Hurricane Ivan and three other hurricanes in 2004, more than one out of every five houses in Florida sustained some kind of damage.
41/ USDAgov // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $32.46 billion
- Total deaths: 1,260
- Begin date: June 1, 1980
- End date: Nov. 30, 1980
The 1980 U.S. drought and heatwave covered a 42-day streak of 100-plus-degree days, making it the longest-lasting in the central-eastern region's history. The drought of 1980 tied or met 29 daily high temperature records and hit many other records. It also caused significant damage to agriculture, and led to at least 1,200 deaths. Another remarkable thing about the 1980 drought was the media coverage, which became obsessive. As the U.S. media ran out of coverage ideas while the drought and heatwave dragged on for months, media crews from all over the world stepped on the scene.
42/ USDAgov // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $33.3 billion
- Total deaths: 123
- Begin date: Jan. 1, 2012
- End date: Dec. 31, 2012
Since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the U.S. drought and heatwaves in 2012 were the most impactful and destructive. About 56% of the contiguous United States was affected by moderate to extreme drought. Many parts of the country saw huge agricultural losses, and the drought caused 123 direct deaths.
43/ James L. Harper Jr. U.S. Air Force // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $35.7 billion
- Total deaths: 112
- Begin date: Sept. 12, 2008
- End date: Sept. 14, 2008
Category 2 Hurricane Ike—the most intense of 2008—struck the Texas coastline on Sept. 13. Ike's tropical storm winds exceeded Hurricane Katrina's and its massive size likened it to a category 5 storm with 15-foot waves pummeling the coasts along the Gulf from Texas to Florida and spawning 29 tornadoes. Ike affected 11 states resulting in 103 direct fatalities; a month after the storm passed, 157 people were still missing.
44/ Andrea Booher FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $37.1 billion
- Total deaths: 48
- Begin date: June 27, 1993
- End date: Aug. 15, 1993
In the summer of 1993, the Midwest and central United States went through the most devastating and costly non-tropical, inland flooding on record in U.S. history. More than 17 million acres across nine states were drowned in water. Hundreds of levees broke along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, killing 48 people and destroying more than 50,000 homes. The flooding had significant impacts on agriculture and infrastructure but also halted all railroad traffic across the Midwest. In addition, 10 commercial airports flooded, and some places along the Mississippi River remained flooded for six months.
45/ USDAgov // Flickr
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $43.6 billion
- Total deaths: 454
- Begin date: June 1, 1988
- End date: Aug. 31, 1988
One of the worst droughts since the 1930s Dust Bowl occurred in the summer of 1988 when at least 45% of the contiguous United States suffered sweltering temperatures and lack of rain. The drought lasted from June until the end of August and resulted in 454 direct deaths and upwards of 5,000 indirect fatalities, as well as significant losses in agriculture and related industries. The Mississippi River barely trickled, and temperatures rocketed up to 110 degrees in some areas.
46/ Bob Epstein FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $49.41 billion
- Total deaths: 61
- Begin date: Aug. 23, 1992
- End date: Aug. 27, 1992
Category 5 Hurricane Andrew slammed Florida in August 1992 with 175 mph winds that damaged or destroyed more than 125,000 homes, stripping many down to their concrete foundations. Some 160,000 people were displaced in Miami-Dade County alone. Hurricane Andrew is one of only three Category 5 hurricanes to affect the U.S. mainland and resulted in the deaths of 61 people. It also destroyed Homestead Air Force Base. The positives to come out of the disaster were overhauls of state building codes, the insurance industry, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
47/ Mark Wolfe FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $50.97 billion
- Total deaths: 97
- Begin date: Sept. 6, 2017
- End date: Sept. 12, 2017
Category 4 Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys destroying or damaging more than 80% of its buildings. As Irma moved along the coast, the 185 mph winds, tornadoes, and storm surges hit nine states. Florida and South Carolina were the most affected. Jacksonville and Charleston had historic levels of storm surge, which caused severe coastal flooding that left millions without electricity. Irma is both the strongest hurricane documented outside of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea and the longest-lasting, with sustained 185 mph winds over 37 hours.
48/ DVIDSHUB // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $72.19 billion
- Total deaths: 159
- Begin date: Oct. 30, 2012
- End date: Oct. 31, 2012
Hurricane Sandy—“Superstorm Sandy”—struck at the end of October 2012, directly affecting 24 states and all of the U.S. eastern seaboard, wreaking havoc from flash flooding and storm surges to blizzard-like conditions. Sandy resulted in 159 deaths and is the fourth-costliest U.S. storm, causing more than $72 billion in damage. The New York Stock Exchange was forced to close for two consecutive business days for the first time since 1888, and a 14-foot surge caused Manhattan's subway system to sustain its worst damage in 108 years because tunnels were flooded. More than 8.5 million people lost power, and more than 20,000 flights were canceled.
49/ Yuisa Rios FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $91.8 billion
- Total deaths: 2,981
- Begin date: Sept. 19, 2017
- End date: Sept. 21, 2017
In September 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Maria affected many parts of the United States, but the impact was felt the most in Puerto Rico. After claiming the lives of at least 2,981 people and resulting in more than $90 billion in damage, Hurricane Maria became one of the deadliest and costliest climate disasters in U.S. history. The mass flooding and mudslides in Puerto Rico devastated the country's economy, infrastructure, and living conditions. The hurricane also was one of most rapidly intensifying storms, going from a tropical depression to a Category 5 Hurricane in less than 54 hours.
50/ Daniel Martinez Texas National Guard // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $127.5 billion
- Total deaths: 89
- Begin date: Aug. 25, 2017
- End date: Aug. 31, 2017
At the end of August 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, spawning more than 30 tornadoes and heavy winds, and dumping 30 to 50 inches of rain on 13 million people in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. In Houston—the nation's fourth-largest city, at least 3,900 people still had no power almost three weeks after the storm, and national gas prices rose as 25% of oil and gas production was shut down in the region. At one point, 75% of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, was under 1.5 feet of water. Massive flooding displaced over 30,000 people and damaged or destroyed over 200,000 homes and businesses.
51/ Jocelyn Augustino FEMA // Wikimedia Commons
- Total cost (inflation-adjusted): $165.01 billion
- Total deaths: 1,833
- Begin date: Aug. 25, 2005
- End date: Aug. 30, 2005
On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina—the costliest and one of the most-deadly disasters in U.S. history—made landfall near Grand Isle, La., as a Category 3 storm with 127 mph winds and severe storm surges, some in excess of 30 feet. Katrina affected 90,000 square U.S. miles and at least eight states, with most of the damage occurring in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana—particularly New Orleans. At least 50 levees failed in New Orleans resulting in devastating mass flooding. By the end, 1,833 people had been killed, including 1,577 in Louisiana, and more than one million people had been displaced. Two of the region's biggest industries—oil and gas—suffered greatly and tourism to the coastal communities died as infrastructure continued to erode. From April 2000 to July 2006, New Orleans' population decreased by more than half.