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Costliest US weather disasters of the last 40 years

  • #60. Tropical storm Imelda (2019)

    - Cost: $5.1 billion
    - Deaths: 5
    - Begin date: Sept. 17, 2019
    - End date: Sept. 21, 2019

    Over three days, tropical storm Imelda caused between 24 inches and 36 inches of rain to fall across an area of Texas between Houston and Beaumont. This extraordinary rainfall led to at least 1,000 high-water rescues and evacuations. In addition, over 900 flights were canceled or delayed in Houston.

  • #59. Freeze, cold wave (1983)

    - Cost: $5.3 billion
    - Deaths: 151
    - Begin date: Dec. 15, 1983
    - End date: Dec. 25, 1983

    In December 1983, freezing temperatures hit southern states, including Florida, Georgia, and Texas. This freeze caused 151 deaths. Drivers who were unaccustomed to driving on ice slid into one another, and frozen pipes forced people to leave their homes. In addition, homeless shelters were crowded as unhomed people looked for shelter from the cold. And in Texas, shipments of citrus were embargoed for 10 days because frost damage often does not show on the outside of fruit for several days, and the Texas Valley Citrus Committee wanted to maintain quality.

  • #58. Southeast ice storm (1994)

    - Cost: $5.3 billion
    - Deaths: 9
    - Begin date: Feb. 8, 1994
    - End date: Feb. 13, 1994


    An especially-severe ice storm hit southeastern states including Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas in February 1994. The storm was unusual for two reasons: its areal extent was much larger than what is usually seen in ice storms, and rainfall amounts were much higher than would be expected for an ice storm. The storm damaged electric utilities and communications, and overall caused $5.5 billion in damage and nine deaths.

  • #57. California wildfires (2003)

    - Cost: $5.5 billion
    - Deaths: 22
    - Begin date: Sept. 1, 2003
    - End date: Nov. 30, 2003

    Between September 2003 and November 2003, wildfires burned through Southern California and other western states, including Alaska. In October, a fire known as the Old Fire ignited in the San Bernardino Mountains and was one of the most devastating fires ever to strike the area. The Old Fire was man-made and was just one part of a massive firestorm that razed the area for weeks. Overall, the month of October was called the "California Fire Siege of 2003" by fire officials.

  • #56. Southern drought/heat wave (1998)

    - Cost: $5.6 billion
    - Deaths: 200
    - Begin date: June 1, 1998
    - End date: Aug. 31, 1998

    The summer of 1998 saw unusually-high temperatures and drought conditions in southern states from Texas and Oklahoma all the way east to the Carolinas and Virginia. The month of June 1998 saw record highs for near-surface global ocean and land temperatures. Even though central Pacific Ocean temperatures had declined due to a recent El Niño event and the beginning of La Niña events, ocean temperatures for the month were at record highs.

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  • #55. U.S. drought (1991)

    - Cost: $5.8 billion
    - Deaths: 0
    - Begin date: March 1, 1991
    - End date: Aug. 31, 1991

    1991 saw an extreme heat wave and an associated drought that impacted states across the United States. In Louisville, Kentucky, only 7.57 inches of rain fell from June through August, when the average is 11.06 inches. In addition, temperatures in the area that summer were the third-warmest on record up to that point. Overall, throughout several states, the drought caused $5.8 billion in damage.

  • #54. Hurricane Iniki (1992)

    - Cost: $5.8 billion
    - Deaths: 7
    - Begin date: Sept. 11, 1992
    - End date: Sept. 12, 1992

    In September 1992, Category 4 storm Hurricane Iniki hit the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The hurricane damaged or destroyed 14,350 homes, and of Kauai's population of just over 51,000 people at the time, around 12,000 needed to be accommodated in public shelters after the storm. The island of Oahu was also hit, and an estimated third of their population had to be evacuated. Seven people died, making it the deadliest hurricane to affect Hawaii since 1990.

  • #53. Severe storms/tornadoes (2003)

    - Cost: $5.9 billion
    - Deaths: 51
    - Begin date: May 3, 2003
    - End date: May 10, 2003

    From May 4 to May 10, 2003, approximately 400 tornadoes were reported throughout the Midwest, Mississippi Valley, Ohio and Tennessee valleys, and portions of the Southeast, creating one of the most-severe periods of weather ever documented in the United States. Overall, it caused $5.9 billion in damages and 51 deaths.

  • #52. Northern Plains flooding (1997)

    - Cost: $6.0 billion
    - Deaths: 11
    - Begin date: Feb. 3, 1997
    - End date: May 24, 1997

    Heavy snowmelt caused severe flooding in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota between February and May 1997. On April 17, the Red River broke the 100-year flood crest record in Fargo, North Dakota. Federal disaster aid was provided for some people in North and South Dakota and parts of Minnesota. Overall, 11 people were killed in the floods, which cost $6 billion in damages.

  • #51. Oakland firestorm (1991)

    - Cost: $6.3 billion
    - Deaths: 25
    - Begin date: Oct. 1, 1991
    - End date: Oct. 31, 1991

    In October 1991, a firestorm that burned over 3,000 homes took place in Oakland, California. When it occurred, it was the costliest urban wildfire to affect the United States since 1980. The fire, which caused 25 deaths and cost $6.3 billion, led to improvements in fire and emergency policies and equipment and the use of more-fireproof materials in buildings.

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