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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332. yqt1001
2:40 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
...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: 1285
331. TropicalAnalystwx13
2:34 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting WoodyFL:



We keep getting the quick gusts of wind with rain every few minutes in South Florida. I see nothing on the radar, but they sure are coming in.

It poured down rain here yesterday evening with really strong gusts in excess of 40-45 mph.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
330. WoodyFL
2:30 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

NO IT ISN'T! ;)



We keep getting the quick gusts of wind with rain every few minutes in South Florida. I see nothing on the radar, but they sure are coming in.
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
329. TropicalAnalystwx13
2:28 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting WoodyFL:


Why are you guys talking about tropical storms? This is an argument blog.

NO IT ISN'T! ;)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
328. WoodyFL
2:27 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

LOL, no.

Only 8820 mph less. ;)


Why are you guys talking about tropical storms? This is an argument blog.
Member Since: April 24, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 601
327. TropicalAnalystwx13
2:15 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

OVER 9000 MPH

LOL, no.

Only 8820 mph less. ;)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
326. Ameister12
2:07 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

OVER 9000 MPH

What!? 9,000!
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
325. WeatherNerdPR
2:05 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Anybody who knows....Don't tell the rest. I want y'all to try to guess Monica's intensity, and I do not mean go look it up...A straight out guess.






OVER 9000 MPH
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5632
324. Ameister12
2:01 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
323. Ameister12
1:46 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Anybody who knows....Don't tell the rest. I want y'all to try to guess Monica's intensity, and I do not mean go look it up...A straight out guess.






Probably around Wilma's intensity. 185mph 890-880 mbars.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
322. CybrTeddy
1:33 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Anybody who knows....Don't tell the rest. I want y'all to try to guess Monica's intensity, and I do not mean go look it up...A straight out guess.







I already know what it was ''officially'' documented as, but in all honesty, 190 mph with a 871 mb pressure is what I would put it as.

And technically, we don't know the exact lowest pressure of Wilma as recon never went in during peak intensity, as the eyewall was too intense and they had to abort. Wilma could have been as low as 879-880 mb.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23619
321. TropicalAnalystwx13
1:22 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Anybody who knows....Don't tell the rest. I want y'all to try to guess Monica's intensity, and I do not mean go look it up...A straight out guess.





Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
320. CybrTeddy
1:21 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

This year has been bizarre. Seriously, Rina weakened in the Western Caribbean and Ophelia intensified to a Cat 4 just north and east of Bermuda.



In October, no less.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23619
319. Skyepony (Mod)
1:21 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
I've had a few coastal showers today but now they are thickening a bit.. incoming, East Coast of FL.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37442
318. yqt1001
1:14 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

And Rina should have been a Cat 3.



The thing about Rina is, only 1 dropsonde supported an intensity of >115mph, and all the SMFR wind reports of 115mph winds were contaminated. NHC seems a bit reluctant to upgrade storms during post-season anyways. I wouldn't be surprised if Rina goes either way (stays the same or gets upgraded).

Anyways, I am looking through Megi's TCR, and the maximum SMFR wind speed recon found was 172 kts, or one knot from 200mph! Of course it didn't stop the JTWC from downgrading her to 185mph in post season, she still remains the strongest storm in 2010 nonetheless.
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1285
317. WeatherNerdPR
1:13 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting Ameister12:

I do think it might have been a category 3. I was surprised that it weakened so early. That's dry air for you.

This year has been bizarre. Seriously, Rina weakened in the Western Caribbean and Ophelia intensified to a Cat 4 just north and east of Bermuda.

Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5632
316. Ameister12
1:08 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

And Rina should have been a Cat 3.


I do think it might have been a category 3. I was surprised that it weakened so early. That's dry air for you.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
315. Jedkins01
1:04 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting yqt1001:
Nanmandol is probably one of the most impressive storms I've tracked.





Technically Nanmandol peaked at 155mph, but he sure looks like one of the strongest storms this year, and I'm kinda hoping for the coveted upgrade to strongest storm this year (which, surprisingly is only 920mb and only 160mph winds, making this year one of the years with the weakest storms I have ever seen).


I just think satellites are quite poor at estimating powerful systems. Wilma, and other category 5 hurricanes would have all been kept at 4 status if recon never flew in to check actual wind speed.


Igor I believe was probably closer to 175 mph. And Nanmandol looks around the same intensity.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7302
314. WeatherNerdPR
1:01 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting Ameister12:

Should have been a category 5.

And Rina should have been a Cat 3.

Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5632
313. Jedkins01
12:59 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting reedzone:
Soo windy in Daytona Beach today, I almost got blown by gusts over 50 mph.



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.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7302
312. Ameister12
12:53 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yeah....and that was a Category 4.

Yeah right.

Should have been a category 5.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
311. yqt1001
12:50 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Nanmandol is probably one of the most impressive storms I've tracked.





Technically Nanmandol peaked at 155mph, but he sure looks like one of the strongest storms this year, and I'm kinda hoping for the coveted upgrade to strongest storm this year (which, surprisingly is only 920mb and only 160mph winds, making this year one of the years with the weakest storms I have ever seen).
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1285
310. wunderweatherman123
12:44 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yeah....and that was a Category 4.

Yeah right.
based on satalite at his peak he had a massive ring of cold cloud tops surrounding his eye. it should have been called a cat 5 but wasnt.. i wonder if 2012 will bring the first cat 5 in 5 years.....
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1369
309. TropicalAnalystwx13
12:34 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting Ameister12:
I think Igor was probably the most amazing hurricane I've ever seen. I wish that recon could have gone into him.

Yeah....and that was a Category 4.

Yeah right.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
308. Ameister12
12:26 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
I think Igor was probably the most amazing hurricane I've ever seen. I wish that recon could have gone into him.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
307. WeatherNerdPR
12:20 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting Thrawst:
"An asteroid named Apophis - estimated to be 885 feet across - will venture extremely close on April 13, 2029 - but will not strike. It has a remote chance of hitting Earth when it comes around again on April 13, 2036."
-The Weather Channel


Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5632
306. Thrawst
12:15 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
"An asteroid named Apophis - estimated to be 885 feet across - will venture extremely close on April 13, 2029 - but will not strike. It has a remote chance of hitting Earth when it comes around again on April 13, 2036."
-The Weather Channel
Member Since: July 18, 2010 Posts: 50 Comments: 1802
305. TropicalAnalystwx13
12:02 AM GMT on November 06, 2011
Quoting Thrawst:
Goodbye "late" sunsets :(

Hello "long" nights. :)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
304. DFWjc
11:59 PM GMT on November 05, 2011
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

South-southeast according to the NWS.


Ok, i don't mind the rain, lived in Seattle for awhile...but lightning in a flat out parking lot...I maybe have my camera running to see if we get some close strikes...LOL
Member Since: July 19, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 1006
303. Thrawst
11:58 PM GMT on November 05, 2011
Goodbye "late" sunsets :(
Member Since: July 18, 2010 Posts: 50 Comments: 1802
302. TropicalAnalystwx13
11:56 PM GMT on November 05, 2011
Quoting DFWjc:


Yeah, and I've got to stand outside Cowboys Stadium on Sunday(director of traffic)...the dome is sloped enough that the winds that come off the top are wicked bad. I'm just hoping the winds are West to East instead of North to South...

South-southeast according to the NWS.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
301. wunderkidcayman
11:54 PM GMT on November 05, 2011
hey guys I serrously never seen this before The perfect storm I mean really 8.0

Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Broke the Dvorak Scale for 5 hours, at 8.0.



anyway I think we will get 2-3 more atlantic-caribbean storms before the end of this year
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11197
Quoting yqt1001:
I can see why Igor and Ivan had the same Dvorak T numbers...





The structures are very similar. Just shows how recon will always be > satellite estimates.

Its funny -- Ivan, the one with the cloud-filled eye, is at 140 kts (160 mph - C5), while Igor, the one with the clear eye, is at 115 knots (135 mph - C4).
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
299. DFWjc
Quoting Ameister12:
The SPC could up the probability to a moderate chance as Monday approaches.


Yeah, and I've got to stand outside Cowboys Stadium on Sunday(director of traffic)...the dome is sloped enough that the winds that come off the top are wicked bad. I'm just hoping the winds are West to East instead of North to South...
Member Since: July 19, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 1006
I can see why Igor and Ivan had the same Dvorak T numbers...





The structures are very similar. Just shows how recon will always be > satellite estimates.
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1285
Quoting superpete:
Eye appears to have a corkscrew effect when you zoom right in...incredible?

Beyond perfect.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Broke the Dvorak Scale for 5 hours, at 8.0.

Eye appears to have a corkscrew effect when you zoom right in...incredible?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Broke the Dvorak Scale for 5 hours, at 8.0.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Yet Igor did.. hm.

Well, Igor hit 7.0 on Adjusted or Raw, not the regular one. According to the regular, Igor's peak was at 6.7, which was also the same as Felix's, Ivan's, Ike's, etc.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Interesting Fact: Neither Wilma nor Katrina NOR Ivan reached 7.0 on the Dvorak Technique at any one time in their lifetime.


Yet Igor did.. hm.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23619
Hey I saw something that mentioned on the blog not too long ago that the reason why its been hard to get a U.S landfalling hurricane in recent years is because of the east-coast troughing-setup that has been in a place since 2009? Is this true? If so what has been the cause if we havent been in a El-Nino?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Japan had a Huge 9.0 Magnitude Earthquake on March 11, 2011 and it Crippled the Nuclear Power plant in Japan and the Huge Tsunami caused a lot of Destruction in Japan too.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Interesting Fact: Neither Wilma nor Katrina NOR Ivan reached 7.0 on the Dvorak Technique at any one time in their lifetime.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
Soo windy in Daytona Beach today, I almost got blown by gusts over 50 mph.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7340
The SPC could up the probability to a moderate chance as Monday approaches.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
...Hello?

Hey there.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4903
...Hello?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
It didn't look like there would be a lot of moisture available for a Severe Weather/Tornado Outbreak Monday, Tuesday, and maybe even Wednesday. Well, things have changed...We should see Severe Weather break out across Western Texas on Monday afternoon, moving into Central and Eastern Texas during the overnight hours, and then into Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana for Tuesday.







(Click images to enlarge)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


It was windy early this morning here. But we are close to the center of the high now. Winds only about 6-8 mph from the east. Pressure 30.44"

Cool and sunny, low 50s.

Northeast wind here between 20-25 mph, gusting between 30-35 mph. Last night, winds were 30-35 mph, with gusts anywhere between 40-55 mph.

Cool and Sunny, upper 50s.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31540
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Good afternoon all from a windy SE North Carolina.


It was windy early this morning here. But we are close to the center of the high now. Winds only about 6-8 mph from the east. Pressure 30.44"

Cool and sunny, low 50s.
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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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