Natural Disasters By Type Of Disaster
There are many disaster types. The most common cause of a natural catastrophe is flooding, which can be caused by thunderstorms, hurricanes, or just heavy rainfall.
Natural Disaster Statistics for Droughts
Droughts have been on the rise over the last 20 years. A drought is defined as a period of time where an area receives less rainfall than normal.
Natural Disaster Statistics for Earthquakes
While large earthquakes are rarer than windstorms, they still pose a significant risk to areas near geological fault lines.
Typically, more than 2,000 earthquakes occur every year in the U.S. (Statista)
More than 1,475 earthquakes (out of 3,685) registering between 3.0 and 3.9 on the Richter scale hit the U.S. in 2005. (Statista)
Alaska has frequent strong earthquakes, with 12,053 recorded between 1974 and 2003. (Statista)
In 1906, San Francisco suffered a large earthquake that killed 2,000 people and caused structure fires across the city. (Statista)
The 1994 earthquake in Los Angeles caused about $30 billion in damage. It is the costliest earthquake to date in the U.S. (Statista)
Natural Disaster Statistics for Extreme Cold Events
Extreme cold events are most deadly when they occur in areas not prepared for cold weather. In 2021, an extreme cold event occurred in Texas, a state known for more mild winters.
In 1977, a wave of cold weather hit the eastern part of the U.S. and caused about $2.8 billion in damages. (Statista)
In 1993, one blizzard cost $5 billion in losses and killed 138 people. (Statista)
Natural Disaster Statistics for Extreme Heat Events
Extreme heat events tend to be most consequential for people without access to air conditioning. Often the elderly and the poorest Americans are most at risk during a heatwave.
In 2019, extremely hot weather accounted for more than $1.5 million in damages across the U.S. and caused 165 injuries. (Statista)
From 1900 to 2016, at least 24 heatwaves have affected the U.S. (Statista)
The 1901 heatwaves caused the deaths of approximately 9,500 people and countless livestock. In New York alone, 250 horses died within one day of extreme heat. (WorldAtlas.org)
The heatwave in Kansas City, Missouri killed approximately 1,260 people in 1980. (Statista)
The Chicago heat wave in 1994 killed 739 people. (University of Chicago)
In the 2021 heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, at least 112 people have died. (Associated Press)
Millions of shellfish were boiled alive in the 2021 heatwave in the Pacific Northwest. (People Magazine)
Natural Disaster Statistics for Floods
Floods can happen in every state across the country but are most common in the eastern half of the U.S.
Flooding is the most common naturally-caused property damage in the U.S. However, most homeowners policies do not cover flood damage. (RMIIA)
In 2019 alone, floods caused about $3.75 billion in damages and claimed the lives of 92 Americans. (Statista)
One flood in the Midwest in 2008 affected about 11 million people, killed 11 people, and cost more than $5 billion in damages to property and farmland. (Statista and National Weather Service)
Cars and vehicles are covered for floods only if the owner purchases comprehensive auto coverage. Even then, they should confirm that their policy includes flood coverage. (RMIIA)
Natural Disaster Statistics for Hurricanes
Hurricanes are often the most costly disaster in any given year. Heavy rains and storm surge cause flash floods that ruin property and claim lives. While preparedness measures, like levees, have reduced the impact of hurricanes, their failures have also caused destruction— like the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Irene affected more than 37 million people, caused the death of 58 people, and caused $14.2 billion in damages in 2011 (Statista)
Hurricane Sandy killed 233 people and cost approximately $68.7 billion in damages in 2012. (Statista)
Hurricane Katrina is the worst hurricane on record both in economic loss and loss of life. It caused the deaths of 1,836 people and caused $125 billion in damages in 2005— approximately $170 billion in 2020 dollars. (Statista)
18 North Atlantic tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) hit the U.S. in 2019. (Statista)
13 hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. between 2011 and 2019. (Statista)
Tropical cyclones caused more than $24.1 billion in damages in 2019, but there were no fatalities. (Statista)
From 1963 to 2012, storm surge is the leading cause of death due to tropical cyclones. That’s followed by rain, surf, offshore, wind, and tornado activity. (Statista)
Natural Disaster Statistics for Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms cause several hazards to people— lightning strikes, wind-carried projectiles, and structural collapse are just three common ways thunderstorms cause hazards to human life.
70 people were killed and 100 injured by lightning in 2018. (Statista)
Lightning accounted for 76,860 insurance claims in 2019. (Statista)
49 severe thunderstorms struck the U.S. in 2019 and caused $27 billion in damages. (Statista)
On average, severe thunderstorms cause more damage than any other type of natural disaster. (Statista)
Natural Disaster Statistics for Tornadoes
Tornadoes are common east of the Rocky Mountains where the cold front from the Rockies and Canada meets the warm front from Mexico and the Southwest. In recent years, this meeting point has shifted eastward.
Tornadoes are more common in the U.S. than in any other country. (Statista)
971 tornadoes hit the U.S. in 2016. (Statista)
1,248 tornadoes hit the U.S. in 2020. (Statista)
Tornadoes tend to touch down east of the Rocky Mountains. The “Tornado Alley” of the U.S. stretches through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, and hosts the most tornadoes historically. (Statista)
Due to climate change, “Tornado Alley” is moving eastward. Fewer tornadoes are hitting the traditional states, while more are hitting the Southeastern portion of the U.S. (TheWeatherNetwork.com and NOAA)
Tornado season runs from March to August. Most tornadoes occur within these months. (Statista)
Tornadoes accounted for $320 million in damages in the U.S. in 2015. (Statista)
In 2019, tornadoes caused $3.1 billion in damages and 42 fatalities. (Statista)
On average, 1,000 tornadoes hit the U.S. each year. (Statista)
Natural Disaster Statistics for Wildfires
Wildfires are on the rise in most states with significant forest land in the U.S. Over the last ten years, the rise in wildfire frequency and intensity has dominated summer and fall headlines.
In 2016, approximately 68,000 wildfires burned 5.5 million acres in the United States. The total cost for fire suppression in 2016 was more than $1.9 billion. (National Interagency Fire Center, NIFC and Bankrate.com)
In 2017, approximately 71,000 wildfires burned 10 million acres in the United States. The total cost for fire suppression in 2017 was more than $2.9 billion. (NIFC and Bankrate.com)
In 2018, approximately 58,000 wildfires burned 8.8 million acres in the United States. The total cost for fire suppression in 2018 was more than $3.1 billion. (NIFC and Bankrate.com)
In 2019, approximately 50,000 wildfires burned 4.6 million acres in the United States. The total cost for fire suppression in 2019 was more than $1.5 billion. (NIFC and Bankrate.com)
The 2019 Camp Fire alone caused more than 10.6 billion in insured losses. (Statista)
In 2020, approximately 58,000 wildfires burned 10.1 million acres in the United States. The total cost for fire suppression in 2020 was more than $2.2 billion. (NIFC and Bankrate.com)