NOAA Reports 2021 Weather Disasters Caused $145 Billion in Damage in the US

by Victoria Santiago
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(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If it seems like we had a lot of severe weather events last year, it’s because we did. 2021 might finally be over, but we’re still experiencing impacts from frequent severe weather. Kentucky alone has had three separate states of emergencies, all within the last month or so. Rebuilding is hard when you keep getting hit with more bad weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a report that details how much these weather events have cost.

In 2021, there were 20 separate billion-dollar major weather disasters. Overall, these weather disasters caused $145 billion worth of damage. About half of that came from Hurricane Ida, which caused $75 billion worth of damage. In total, 688 people died from these weather events.

To compare, in 2020 there were 22 separate billion-dollar weather events. However, the cost of these events only added up to around $102 billion. Over a span of five years (2017-2021), NOAA has reported that weather events have cost us $742 billion. That averages out to $148 billion a year.

2021’s billion-dollar weather events included: the deadly winter storm/cold front in Texas, a wildfire that covered seven states (AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, OR, and WA), a drought and heatwave that hit the West Coast, two floods in CA and LA, three outbreaks of tornadoes (including the devastating KY tornadoes), four tropical cyclones (Elsa, Fred, Ida, and Nicholas), and eight other events.

Weather Disasters Will Become More Common, According to NOAA

Weather like this is becoming more common. As global temperatures rise, severe weather only happens more often and gets worse. For example, December was an uncommonly warm month for the US, and we saw several weather events. In fact, the 48 states had the highest temperature on record – 39.3 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s almost seven degrees higher than the average December temperature. This data didn’t include Alaska or Hawaii.

Overall, 2021 was one of the hottest years on record. CNBC reports that NOAA data shows 2021 as the fourth-hottest year ever recorded, with an average US temperature of 54.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Their data and records span 127 years. Furthermore, the six hottest years on record have all occurred since 2012.

Extreme Weather Into the New Year

One of our most recent severe weather events has been a costly and deadly wildfire in Boulder County, CO. The fire caused $513 million in damage and destroyed over a thousand homes and buildings. So far, it’s been the most destructive fire in state history. 9.4 miles were covered by the blaze, with entire communities being damaged.

As if rebuilding isn’t expensive enough, insurance prices are expected to skyrocket for the area. Some insurance companies are already refusing to do business in the state, due to the potential costs. If a wildfire breaks out in a well-off neighborhood, damages could easily reach $1 billion. Even the premise of that will raise insurance rates for CO residents.

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