The weather has packed a punch in the United States this year as drought, floods, thunderstorms and tornadoes have surfaced across the country. What’s more, hurricane season hasn't even come on to the scene. With government budgets and many individual citizens suffering from weather costs, it begs the question, what will the summer months bring?
AccuWeather.com meteorologists predict there will be four direct tropical systems hitting the United States this year. Cleanup costs from those storms will drain already fragile state budgets hit by extreme weather this spring, they note.
Weather damage has already broken records. Last week, a report from Aon Benfield, a reinsurance company, estimated $21 billion to $22 billion in damage from severe weather to date.
The report included uninsured losses from the April and May tornadoes and severe storms. According to Aon, in those two months the amount of severe weather insured losses is three times the U.S. annual average (1990 to 2010). It does not include damage from flooding, drought and wildfire.
Mississippi River flooding from Illinois to Louisiana caused between $850 million and $2 billion in damage, says John Michael Riley, agricultural economist at Mississippi State University. Those numbers continue to evolve.
In Minot, N.D., $90 million is the preliminary estimate for flood damage to public facilities. However, those flood waters will remain high for a week or more, and there is no estimate regarding damage to homes and other private property.
Aon Benfield's damage total does not cover damage amounts caused by drought and wildfires in the Southwest. The National Climatic Data Center estimates that damage between $1 billion and $3 billion.
The severe weather events included in Aon Benfield's reports, added together with some other unusual weather events push the grand total to between $23 billion and $28 billion. For perspective, Accuweather.com points out the top estimate of $28 billion, is three times the 2011 operating budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.
With four predicted tropical system hits this year, severe weather damage totals will grow. However, that does not necessarily mean the storms will involve a hurricane, Accuweather.com meteorologists point out. It could include anything from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane. (A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds more than 73 mph.)
So, how Much Does a Hurricane Cost?
An Atlantic hurricane that hits U.S. land totals a median cost of $1.8 billion (2011 adjusted). The focus is on median costs because Hurricane Katrina's tremendous damage, at $145 billion (2011 adjusted), inflates the average cost of a hurricane to nearly $9 billion, Accuweather.com meteorologists note.
Cost estimates from a hurricane don't include damage the system causes once it moves inland. For example, Hurricane Ike hit land in Texas but Ike's high winds knocked down power lines across North America; that was not included in the calculations.
Nor do hurricane costs include costs from tropical storms. Slower-moving storms hover over an area, dumping more rain than a hurricane with high winds that quickly passes through.