Fourteen U.S. billion-dollar weather disasters in 2011: a new record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:12 PM GMT on November 04, 2011

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It's time to add another billion-dollar weather disaster to the growing 2011 total of these costly disasters: the extraordinary early-season Northeast U.S. snowstorm of October 29, which dumped up to 32 inches of snow, brought winds gusts of 70 mph to the coast, and killed at least 22 people. Not since the infamous snow hurricane of 1804 have such prodigious amounts of October snow been recorded in New England and, to a lesser extent, in the mid-Atlantic states. Trees that had not yet lost their leaves suffered tremendous damage from the wet, heavy snow. Snapped branches and falling trees brought down numerous power lines, leaving at least 3 million people without electricity. The damage estimate in Connecticut alone is $3 billion, far more than the damage Hurricane Irene did to the state. Hundreds of thousands still remain without power a week after the storm, with full electricity not expected to be restored until Monday.


Figure 1. Wet, heavy snow from the October 29, 2011 snowstorm weighing down trees still sporting their fall leaves in Winchester, VA. Image credit: wunderphotographer MaddScientist98.

The October 29 snow storm brings the 2011 tally of U.S. billion-dollar weather disasters to fourteen, thoroughly smashing the previous record of nine such disasters, set in 2008. Between 1980 - 2010, the U.S. averaged 3.5 of these weather disasters per year. Through August, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) estimated that ten weather disasters costing at least $1 billion had hit the U.S., at total cost of up to $45 billion. However, the October 29 snow storm brings us up to eleven billion-dollar disasters, and a new disaster analysis done by global reinsurance company AON Benfield adds three more. Flood damage from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee in the Northeast on September 8 is now estimated at more than $1 billion, and two outbreaks of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes--one in April and one in June--now have damage estimates exceeding $1 billion. A remarkable seven severe thunderstorm/tornado outbreaks did more than $1 billion each in damage in 2011, and an eighth outbreak July 10 - 14 came close, with damages of $900 million. In total, the fourteen billion-dollar disasters killed 675 people. Tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods in these fourteen disasters killed over 600 people, putting 2011 into fourth place since 1940 for most deaths by severe storms. Only 2005, with over 1,000 deaths caused by Katrina, 1969, with over 700 hurricane and flood-related deaths, and 1972, with 676 hurricane and flood-related deaths, were deadlier years for storms, according to NOAA. The fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters of 2011 caused $53 billion in damage, putting 2011 in fifth place for most damages from billion-dollar weather disasters. The top damage years, according to NCDC in adjusted 2011 dollars, were 2005 (the year of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma), 2008 (Hurricane Ike), 1988 (Midwest drought), and 1980 (Midwest drought). With nearly two months remaining in 2011, the potential exists for more billion-dollar weather disasters this year. Our first opportunity comes Tuesday, when the NOAA Storm Prediction Center is forecasting the possibility of a severe weather outbreak centered over Arkansas and Missouri.


Video 1. Remarkable video of the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama during the April 25 - 30, 2011 Super Outbreak. This tornado outbreak was the most expensive U.S. weather-related disaster of 2011, with damages estimated at $9 billion. Fast forward to minute four to see the worst of the storm.

Here are AON Benfield's estimates of the damages and NCDC's estimates of the death tolls from 2011's fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters (a clickable version of this table with information on each disaster is available on our severe weather resource page):



Have a great weekend, everyone, and I'll be back with a new post on Monday.

Angela Fritz is subbing for Ricky Rood this week, and has written an interesting post on the latest climate change controversy, the release of the new Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study by skeptic Dr. Richard Muller.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting TampaSpin:



That seldom ever happens.....i cant think of one honestly.



The reason is that if a subsequent. stronger earthquake happens a short period afterwards, the weaker, earlier earthquake by definition is no longer the primary earthquake. It becomes a foreshock to the stronger, later quake.
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 26 Comments: 8630
Thanks for posting the maps AussieStorm. I saw them earlier on US Geological Survey site. Still doesn't answer how long the shaking lasted. Was it a "jolt" or go on and on and on?
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An %u201CAftershock%u201D can be greater than the initial earthquake.
PARTIALLY FACT: %u201CForeshock" and "aftershock" are relative terms. Foreshocks are earthquakes that precede larger earthquakes in the same location. Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that occur in the same general area during the days to years following a larger event or "main shock%u201D. So if an %u201Caftershock%u201D is bigger than its %u201Cmain shock%u201D, we change the names and call the first one the foreshock and the large %u201Caftershock%u201D becomes the main shock. Most aftershocks occur on the same fault as the main shock, but other faults nearby and extensions of the main shock fault will also produce aftershocks. Historically, deep earthquakes are much less likely to be followed by aftershocks than are shallow earthquakes.

EDIT: Source is USGS
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Quoting HouGalv08:
Anyone up there close to the OK earthquake.......how long did the shaker last? US Geo survey always gives depth/strength/etc., but never shaker length in time.






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Anyone up there close to the OK earthquake.......how long did the shaker last? US Geo survey always gives depth/strength/etc., but never shaker length in time.
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Quoting ClaySFL:


Aftershocks can be stronger than the original earthquake.


Can an aftershock of an earthquake be stronger than the earthquake its self?

Yes. However the preceding earthquakes (including the one that was originally the largest) are then downgraded or renamed as fore-shocks and the new larger magnitude earthquake is termed the main shock.



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Quoting TampaSpin:



http://www.iris.edu/seismon/Link


Thank you.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:
Whats with all these strong earthquakes in these areas that don't commonly get earthquakes? Colorado, Virgina, and now Oklahoma? This is becoming very strange.....

The 1st known quake in Colorado was at Fort Reynolds, 20 miles east of Pueblo where glass bottles that were standing 1 inch apart where violently knocking into each other, That was 1870. In 1909 a seismograph was installed at Regis College but it's quality was below par and until 1962 newspaper reports where the main source of data.

Colorado does have a long history of quakes but most are below 5.0 .


Oklahoma Fault map.


Seismic Hazard map.


If you want more info and any states quake History, go here.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Do you have a link for that page? Quite a good graphic on post 365.



http://www.iris.edu/seismon/Link
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Check it out:
http://earthquake-report.com/2011/11/05/magnitude -4-7-earthquake-hits-the-greater-oklahoma-city-are a/
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Quoting TampaSpin:



Been watching the WEST Coast for a while.....pressure has to be increasing when you look at the rest of the ring of fire but, yet the West Coast has had little....JMO tho.


Do you have a link for that page? Quite a good graphic on post 365.
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Quoting ClaySFL:


Aftershocks can be stronger than the original earthquake.



That seldom ever happens.....i cant think of one honestly.

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Quoting ClaySFL:


Aftershocks can be stronger than the original earthquake.


Then the first quake would be a foreshock.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Interesting gap in the seismic areas along the CA/WA coast. Sure hope you are wrong, but it has been what, 22 years now?



Been watching the WEST Coast for a while.....pressure has to be increasing when you look at the rest of the ring of fire but, yet the West Coast has had little....JMO tho.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


This was probably not an aftershock since it was stronger than the first one.


Aftershocks can be stronger than the original earthquake.
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Quoting TampaSpin:



WEST COAST big one could be LOOMING i'm afraid...




Interesting gap in the seismic areas along the CA/WA coast. Sure hope you are wrong, but it has been what, 22 years now?
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Quoting hurricanic:
Magnitude 5.6

I believe that's the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma. Very impressive. Those foreshocks the other day meant something.


This was probably not an aftershock since it was stronger than the first one.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:
Whats with all these strong earthquakes in these areas that don't commonly get earthquakes? Colorado, Virgina, and now Oklahoma? This is becoming very strange.....



WEST COAST big one could be LOOMING i'm afraid...


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Magnitude 5.6

I believe that's the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma. Very impressive. Those foreshocks the other day meant something.
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Quoting TampaSpin:

Magnitude
5.6
Date-Time
Sunday, November 06, 2011 at 03:53:10 UTC
Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 10:53:10 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
35.599°N, 96.752°W
Depth
5 km (3.1 miles)
Region
OKLAHOMA
Distances
34 km (21 miles) NNE of Shawnee, Oklahoma
63 km (39 miles) SSE of Stillwater, Oklahoma
68 km (42 miles) ESE of Guthrie, Oklahoma
71 km (44 miles) ENE of OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahom


Both this one and the one in VA were extremely shallow. Kinda interesting... Usually you see a depth of like 10-20 miles..
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Whats with all these strong earthquakes in these areas that don't commonly get earthquakes? Colorado, Virgina, and now Oklahoma? This is becoming very strange.....
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USGS is saying 5.6
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Magnitude
5.6
Date-Time
Sunday, November 06, 2011 at 03:53:10 UTC
Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 10:53:10 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
35.599°N, 96.752°W
Depth
5 km (3.1 miles)
Region
OKLAHOMA
Distances
34 km (21 miles) NNE of Shawnee, Oklahoma
63 km (39 miles) SSE of Stillwater, Oklahoma
68 km (42 miles) ESE of Guthrie, Oklahoma
71 km (44 miles) ENE of OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahom
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5.2 magnitude earthquake strikes OK
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lol....almost falling to the ground by a phantom 40MPH gust.
I can't imagine a man/woman/child of any size being knocked to the ground by a 40mph gusty.....lol...unless they were on ice(maybe)...lol
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
THat was a big 5.2 quake there in OK!
Hope everything and everyone is ok
We felt 5.8 here in D.C.Let me tell you...it wasn't pretty.You don't know what it's like to be in a earthqauke until you been in one.I relized that on Aug.23.tuesday.
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THat was a big 5.2 quake there in OK!
Hope everything and everyone is ok
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This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
Magnitude 5.2
Date-Time Sunday, November 06, 2011 at 03:53:10 UTC
Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 10:53:10 PM at epicenter

Location 35.599°N, 96.751°W
Depth 5 km (3.1 miles)
Region OKLAHOMA
Distances 6 km (4 miles) E (101°) from Sparks, OK
12 km (8 miles) S (174°) from Davenport, OK
14 km (9 miles) NNW (335°) from Prague, OK
72 km (45 miles) E (79°) from Oklahoma City, OK
311 km (194 miles) N (1°) from Dallas, TX
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
Quoting Barefootontherocks:
Felt another earthquake here in Stephens County, OK at 10:53 pm cdt. Stronger than the one today at 2:12am cdt. This one rock and rolled the house - and shook. Heart pounded.
Details at 11.


Wow a 5.2. No wonder you felt it.
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
Quoting Barefootontherocks:
Felt another earthquake here in Stephens County, OK at 10:53 pm cdt. Stronger than the one today at 2:12am cdt. This one rock and rolled the house - and shook. Heart pounded.
Details at 11.


I felt it down here in Lewisville, TX.
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Quoting yqt1001:


Haha! We still got an average amount of snow that year, but it all melted in February! It was 14C for a few weeks (average daily high of -10C that time of year...) here in mid-February of 2010. We were in Florida that February and January ("escaping the winter"). We left Tampa and it was just below freezing there...we got home to tons of puddles and 10C. Had we known that we would've had t-shirt weather here rather than in Florida we probably would've never left!
February was all hell for us here in the mid-atlantic and D.C.Everytime we heard snow it was like Floridians hearing a major hurricane was coming for them.
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Felt another earthquake here in Stephens County, OK at 10:53 pm cdt. Stronger than the one today at 2:12am cdt. This one rock and rolled the house - and shook. Heart pounded.
Details at 11.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 154 Comments: 18755
Quoting washingtonian115:
Ahhh so sorry.We saw snow here in D.C.might be another almost snowless winter like it was back in 09-10.Lol.Just kidding.


Haha! We still got an average amount of snow that year, but it all melted in February! It was 14C for a few weeks (average daily high of -10C that time of year...) here in mid-February of 2010. We were in Florida that February and January ("escaping the winter"). We left Tampa and it was just below freezing there...we got home to tons of puddles and 10C. Had we known that we would've had t-shirt weather here rather than in Florida we probably would've never left!
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286
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Quoting yqt1001:


Early-mid October, usually starts accumulating around now. The halloween nor'easter you guys got gave us a ton of rain instead of snow, if it had been snow we would probably still have snow on the ground from it.
Ahhh so sorry.We saw snow here in D.C.might be another almost snowless winter like it was back in 09-10.Lol.Just kidding.
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Quoting reedzone:


Completely sober.. Think and believe what you want to believe, I was there. Gusts were over TS strength in Daytona Beach.


I wasn't disagreeing with you. We've been getting strong gusts here and I spoke to some friends just a few miles North of us and they haven't had a thing.
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
Quoting WoodyFL:


You weren't coming back from a frat party now, were you? Be honest.


Completely sober.. Think and believe what you want to believe, I was there. Gusts were over TS strength in Daytona Beach.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Never.


It wouldn't look good on your tourist posters if you got snow in PR.
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
Quoting reedzone:


I have to disagree with the reports.. I weigh 155 lbs and I almost fell to the ground after few very strong gusts over 40 mph. at the least. Obs are obs, but when you're actually witnessing them, obs/stations are not gods.


You weren't coming back from a frat party now, were you? Be honest.
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
Quoting WoodyFL:


When do you get your first snow usually?

Never.
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Quoting Jedkins01:



lol don't cry wolf man, Daytona beach has had max sustained winds in the 20 mph range, with gusts into the low 30's, that's a far cry from 50 mph...


I mean, just because it nearly blew you over doesn't mean its 50 mph :)

really though, if you want to improve your wind estimations, frequently check actual observations then compare them to your estimate, repeat this process frequently to train your brain in improving estimation.


Physically, there is a huge difference between 30 mph gusts, and 50 mph gusts.


You should try experiencing 80 mph, it may cause a reaction to wet the pants, and say, 130 mph will scar someone mentally for life.


I have to disagree with the reports.. I weigh 155 lbs and I almost fell to the ground after few very strong gusts over 40 mph. at the least. Obs are obs, but when you're actually witnessing them, obs/stations are not gods.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
Quoting WoodyFL:


I don't do snow anymore.

I do.

I wait for it every season, and I usually get it a) Thanksgiving, and then b) a big snowstorm or icestorm in February...Of course, that was when I lived in Texas, which I don't anymore.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32275
Quoting yqt1001:


Early-mid October, usually starts accumulating around now. The halloween nor'easter you guys got gave us a ton of rain instead of snow, if it had been snow we would probably still have snow on the ground from it.


I don't do snow anymore.
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
Quoting WoodyFL:


When do you get your first snow usually?


Early-mid October, usually starts accumulating around now. The halloween nor'easter you guys got gave us a ton of rain instead of snow, if it had been snow we would probably still have snow on the ground from it.
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286
Quoting yqt1001:
...and here in Northern Ontario it still has not snowed. Might even be a green Christmas at this rate, we still haven't had a daily high below freezing...

Developing La Nina ftw!


When do you get your first snow usually?
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It poured down rain here yesterday evening with really strong gusts in excess of 40-45 mph.


Wow, we lead exciting lives, don't we?
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
...and here in Northern Ontario it still has not snowed. Might even be a green Christmas at this rate, we still haven't had a daily high below freezing...

Developing La Nina ftw!
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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