5 Natural Disasters That Have Affected the Economy with Billions of Dollars

Know the economic impacts of natural disasters.
Kashyap Vyas
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The unavoidable natural disasters are the damaging events which, when occur cause extreme weather change like floods, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, lightning strikes, and so on. These disasters also include non-weather events like volcanoes, earthquakes, wildfire, and mudslides.

Whenever such disasters occur at any place, they leave behind many grave problems. One such problem is the rising cost and expenses and the overall impact on the economy of that country.


If we look back to the time period from 1980 to 2019, out of all the disaster events, the highest damage is said to be done by the tropical cyclones. This is around the U.S. $927.5 billion, (consumer price index i.e. CPI adjusted).  

The losses incurred due to these cyclones also have the highest average event cost i.e. $22.1 billion per event, CPI adjusted.

Every year, several natural disasters hit the U.S in different parts, leading to a lot of damage and financial loss. For instance, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2017, the environmental disasters have caused $306 billion damage in total across the U.S.

These disasters include hurricanes and multiple wildfires, and it is believed that the U.S. experienced a historic year of such weather and climate disasters. This means, there’s a huge amount of financial loss occurring every year.

So, what is the estimated cost of damage per year? Let’s find out!

How much do natural disasters cost per year?

The natural disasters are becoming more frequent and not to forget, more expensive. It has become a trend which is, unfortunately, likely to continue even in the future. But, the sad part is; the majority of the states aren’t even sure about how much they are spending on preparing and recovering from such events.

Every natural disaster comes with its own set of expenses. Like, for floods, the average cost per event is estimated to be around $4.3 billion. If we look at the statistics of such different type of disasters of some years, we end up getting the below-mentioned alarming figures according to the National Centers for Environmental Information:

Economic Impacts of Natural Disasters
Source: NOAA

We’ll know about some of these disasters and their impact on the economy, but, before that, what do you feel looking at this graph? A common question that may arise here is: can these costs be reduced? What climate adaptation measures should be taken for the same?

Well, some measures like restoring coastal marshes, treating stressed vegetation in wildfire-prone areas, and increasing the flood-preparedness of homes can help. But, as per the National Climatic Assessment, climate change is not in our hands and is still outpacing our plans and measures.

What we can do is reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible to save our climate and weather pattern.

For now, let’s take a look at some of the environmental disasters that have affected the U.S. in billions.

1. Western Wildfires, California Firestorms

After 1933, California experienced the largest, deadliest and costliest wildfires in November 2018. It burned 8.8 million acres and literally wiped out the town of paradise, killing 106 people with another 11 reported missing.

This wildfire which is considered to be the most destructive is also the costliest natural disaster in the world as the damage caused due to it was a whopping $16.5 billion. It cost the U.S. Forest Service $3.1 billion just to fight against this wildfire.

Not only this but if we look back, in the last two years, the damage due to the U.S. wildfire has really been exceptional, with losses exceeding $40 billion.

2. Hurricane Michael

With devastating winds at a speed of 155mph and a storm flow in excess of 15 feet, Hurricane Michael made landfall at Mexico beach on October 2018. This environmental disaster nearly destroyed the entire Mexico beach.

Panama City too experienced extensive damage. Talking about the economic damage, the figure reached billions i.e. $25.2 billion, affecting agriculture and forestry. It was the harvest season and unfortunately, the high winds destroyed numerous crops across several states.

It did not stop; in fact, it continued to grow due to the low wind as well as above-average Sea surface temperatures. The death figure reached 49, making Hurricane Michael the first category 5 to strike the U.S. mainland after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

3. Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence
Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Though a very slow moving hurricane, Hurricane Florence was huge that led to extreme rainfall across the entire North and South Carolina in September 2018. Its damaging storm gushed up to 10 feet while winds were reported over 100 mph.

But, the major damage occurred was due to the rainfall inland that further caused many rivers to go beyond the records of previously recorded flood heights.

The number of people died during this natural disaster reached a figure of 53. The total damage out of this Hurricane Florence is estimated to be $24.2 billion – which is more than the combined cost damage of Hurricane Matthew (2016) and Hurricane Floyd (1999).

4. Hurricane Maria

Damage Due to Hurricane Maria
Source: Roosevelt Skerrit/Flickr

Hurricane Maria hit Dominica in September 2017. Puerto Rico – home to 3.5 million people was not spared when it was hit by this Category 5 storm. Different aspects that were affected in this environmental disaster include communication, transportation, as well as energy infrastructure.

The Caribbean island experienced extreme rainfall up to 37 inches causing floods and mudslides all across. Hurricane Maria is considered to be one of the deadliest storms that have impacted the U.S. miserably with a death figure of 2,975 and economy damage of $92.7 billion.

5. Hurricane Harvey

Flood Due to Hurricane Harvey
Source: SC National Guard/Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane Harvey that struck in August 2017 caused widespread damage near Rockport, Texas basically due to heavy rainfall and floods that followed thereafter. This natural disaster is said to be the first major hurricane in Southern Texas after Celia that struck in 1970.

There have been two feet of rainfall within just the first 24 hours. The floods further forced 39,000 people to leave their homes and search for some other shelter.

Hurricane Harvey had a substantial impact on the economy of the US. It not only took the lives of 89 people but, also caused the financial damage of around $128.8 billion.

With the massive flooding, over 200,000 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed completely.

Smart and conscious efforts can help the cause

The above-mentioned list includes only 5 disasters, but, there are many others that have struck in the various parts of the US. As per the reports, with time, the frequency of disasters like hurricanes and wildfires has increased by 400% since 1970.

It is believed that one of the major reasons behind the increasing frequency and severity of environmental disasters is global warming.


The increasing temperatures are leading to more chaotic weather patterns, which in turn, leads to environmental imbalance. It’s high time the world acknowledges this grave issue and work for it together.