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Natural disaster facts and statistics 2022

power lines knocked down and damaged after a storm
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power lines knocked down and damaged after a storm
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Data from U.S. government agencies has proven that natural disasters are becoming more prevalent and storm-related property damage costs are increasing. 2020 and 2021 were the worst years on record for the most natural disasters. In 2021, 20 weather-related disasters totaled more than $1 billion in damages each and $145 billion in total combined damages overall, making it the third costliest year in history for natural disasters. 2020 recorded a jaw-dropping 22 recorded billion-dollar weather events.

Not only are natural disasters becoming more common, they are also becoming more widespread. For instance, in 2021, Texas and other parts of the South experienced a winter storm event that caused widespread power outages and multiple pile-up car accidents. Also, in late 2021, the first known derecho in December to occur in the U.S. caused extensive damage in the upper Midwest.

Fortunately, a comprehensive homeowners insurance policy will protect your finances if your home and personal belongings are damaged or destroyed in many natural disasters. However, certain types of damage are often not covered in a standard policy, such as flood and earthquake damage. If you live in an area with a high risk of natural disasters or severe weather, it’s important to make sure your home insurance policy provides sufficient protection for your unique needs.

Key natural disaster facts and statistics

Climate change and natural disasters are serious threats to many parts of the U.S. Although many natural disasters are unavoidable, it’s still important to be aware of their potential impact. Here are a few natural disaster statistics from recent years and historically:

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  • Between 1980 and 2021, the U.S. has seen 310 weather and climate disasters where the total cost reached or exceeded $1 billion. (NOAA)
  • The combined cost of the 310 natural disasters recorded between 1980 and 2021 is more than $2.15 trillion. (NOAA)
  • Climate change is one of the factors responsible for the increasing frequency and intensity of some types of extreme weather in the U.S. (NOAA)
  • Data shows that 2017 was the costliest year for natural disasters, with $519 billion in total damages. 2005 was the second costliest, with $351 billion in damages. (Aon)
  • On average, there are 26 billion-dollar weather-related disasters per year, based on natural disaster data since 1990. (Aon)
  • 2021 was the most expensive year on record for insured losses due to winter weather, at $17 billion. (Aon)
  • An estimated 90% of natural disasters in the U.S. involve flooding. (DHS)
  • On an annual basis, more than 1,000 tornadoes touch down in the U.S., resulting in severe property damage, fatalities, and disruptions in power, water and communication services. (DHS)

2021 natural disaster statistics

In the U.S., 2021 was one of the worst years for natural disasters, both in terms of the number of events and the total cost of damages. Here are some natural disaster facts from events that occurred in 2021:

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Bankrate insights
  • In 2021, there were 20 reported natural disasters in the U.S. These included one drought, two flooding events, 11 severe storms, four tropical cyclones, one wildfire (spanning multiple states) and one winter storm. (NOAA)
  • The most expensive weather event in 2021 was Hurricane Ida, which resulted in roughly $75 billion in damages. The second-costliest event was the winter storm in the Southwest, which resulted in $24 billion in damages. (NOAA)
  • The winter storm in the Southwest resulted in $30 billion in losses, only half of which were insured losses. (MunichRe
  • The largest natural disasters and extreme weather events in 2021 impacted an estimated 14.5 million single- and multi-family homes. (CoreLogic)
  • According to data from the Emergency Event Database (EM-DAT), five of the top ten most economically costly disasters in 2021 happened in the U.S. (ReliefWeb)
  • In 2021, the insured losses from U.S. wildfires reached $5 billion, which is the seventh consecutive year that insured wildfire losses have exceeded $2 billion. (Aon)
  • The deadliest weather-related event in North America was the heat wave in June 2021 that resulted in 1,029 fatalities. (Aon)
  • According to international reinsurance group MunichRe, total U.S. natural disaster losses in 2021 reached $145 billion, but only $85 billion in losses were insured. (MunichRe)

2020 natural disaster statistics

Natural disasters in 2020 resulted in more than $210 billion in losses, which was significantly higher than the cost in 2019, according to MunichRe. Below are some figures on natural disasters and extreme weather events in 2020:

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Bankrate insights
  • In 2020, there were 980 recorded natural disasters and weather-related events that caused losses to property and life. For comparison, there were only 860 recorded events in 2019. (MunichRe)
  • The five costliest natural disasters in 2020 were weather-related events that occurred in the U.S. Hurricane Laura had the greatest insured losses, at $10 billion. The California wildfires were the second most costly, with $7.5 billion in insured losses. (MunichRe)
  • In 2020, roughly 70% of insured losses were caused by small and medium-sized secondary perils, such as tornadoes, thunderstorms and wildfires. (MunichRe)
  • There were 22 billion-dollar weather-related events recorded in the U.S. in 2020, which had a combined $95 billion in damages. (NOAA)
  • There was a record-breaking number of tropical cyclones in the U.S. in 2020. Of the 30 storms, 12 made landfall, surpassing the previous record set in 2005. (NOAA)
  • There were also record-breaking wildfires in the U.S. in 2020. More than 10.2 million total acres burned and California more than doubled its previous yearly record for area burned. (NOAA)
  • Five of the six largest wildfires on record in California took place during August and September of 2020. (NOAA)
  • Parts of the Midwest sustained severe damage from a derecho in August 2020. It’s only the third derecho event since 1980 with inflation-adjusted costs over $10 billion. (NOAA)

Wildfire statistics

Wildfire statistics show that these events are becoming increasingly prevalent across the U.S., putting homes and lives at risk. Here are some staggering wildfire facts to be aware of:

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  • It’s estimated that more than 90% of wildfires in the U.S. are started by humans, which includes both intentional and unintentional acts. Only about 10% of wildfires are caused naturally by things like lightning and lava. (Triple-I)
  • As of 2019, roughly 4.5 million homes in the U.S. were identified as having a high or extreme risk of wildfire. (Triple-I)
  • California has the largest number of homes at risk of sustaining damage from a wildfire. An estimated 2 million properties in California have a high to extreme wildfire risk, based on 2021 data. (Triple-I)
  • According to Verisk, Delaware is the only state in the U.S. that did not have any recorded wildfires in 2021. (Triple-I)
  • The costliest wildfire in recent U.S. history was the Camp Fire, which occurred in Northern California in 2018. As of 2021, the fire resulted in an estimated $10.75 billion in total losses. Roughly 153,336 acres burned, and more than 18,800 structures were destroyed. (Triple-I)
  • As of May 2022, more than 21,200 wildfires have burned over 1.1 million acres this year alone. (Congressional Research Service)
  • Central states and parts of the East Coast see the highest number of wildfires on an annual basis. However, wildfires on the West Coast are larger and burn more acreage. (Congressional Research Service)
  • On average, there have been 1,065 large or significant fires each year between 2017 and 2021. (Congressional Research Service)

Hurricane statistics

Hurricane statistics show that tropical storms are a serious threat to many homes in the southern U.S., Mid-Atlantic region and the East Coast. Data shows that climate change is one of the biggest factors causing more frequent and more severe hurricanes in certain parts of the country. Below are some hurricanes facts about the cost and prevalence of these events in the U.S.:

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Bankrate insights
  • Hurricane season is officially recognized between June and November, although hurricanes have occurred outside of those months. (Triple-I)
  • In 2021, there were seven hurricanes, which included four major hurricanes. (NOAA)
  • 2021 was the third most active year on record for the number of named storms. It was the sixth consecutive year with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. (NOAA)
  • The costliest hurricane on record in the U.S. was Hurricane Katrina, which occurred in 2005. The damages from Hurricane Katrina resulted in $65 billion in insured losses. (Triple-I)
  • Hurricane Katrina is also the deadliest hurricane on record in U.S. history, with 1,518 fatalities. (Triple-I)
  • Hurricane Ida, which occurred in 2021, was the second-costliest hurricane on record, with $35 billion in insured losses. (Triple-I)
  • Florida has the largest number of residential homes that could sustain hurricane damage. Over 2.8 million homes in the state could get damaged by a category 5 hurricane. (Triple-I)
  • Although hurricanes are rated by wind, hurricane-related fatalities are mostly caused by flooding. For all hurricanes between 1963 and 2012, almost 90% of fatalities were caused by storm surge, rainfall flooding and high surf. (Weather.com)

Tornado statistics

According to tornado statistics, most tornadoes occur in Tornado Alley, a band of states in the Midwest, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and some parts of Texas. Although there is no evidence that proves tornadoes are getting stronger, they are becoming more common in areas east and south of Tornado Alley. Below are some tornado facts to be aware of:

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Bankrate insights
  • Tornadoes and convective storms cause an average of $17 billion in losses each year, which is almost equal to the average annual losses caused by hurricanes. (Triple-I)
  • Tornado season takes place at different times in different parts of the country. In the Southwest, tornadoes are most likely to occur in May and June. On the Gulf Coast, tornadoes occur in early spring. In the Midwest, tornado season occurs in June and July. However, tornadoes can happen at any time during the year. (NOAA)
  • Every year, roughly 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide. However, not all tornadoes are severe. (Triple-I)
  • In 2021, there were 1,376 tornadoes reported in the U.S. For comparison, there were only 1,075 tornadoes reported in 2020. (Triple-I)
  • There were more than 100 tornado-related fatalities in 2021, which is slightly more than the year prior. (Triple-I)
  • The costliest tornado in the U.S. occurred in August 2020, which spanned from Tornado Alley and eastward to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The total damages cost more than $9.2 million. (Triple-I)
  • Historical data shows that Texas has the most tornadoes on an annual basis. Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois and Iowa also experience a high rate of tornadoes. (Triple-I)
  • Although tornadoes often occur in the U.S., they are also prevalent in other countries. Data shows that Argentina and Bangladesh have the highest concentrations of tornadoes outside the U.S. (NOAA)

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Written by
Elizabeth Rivelli
Insurance Contributor
Elizabeth Rivelli is a contributing insurance writer for Bankrate and has years of experience writing for insurance domains such as The Simple Dollar, Coverage.com and NextAdvisor, among others
Edited by
Insurance Editor