Planet Money
5:37 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

America's Most Expensive Storms

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 9:10 am

While we're on the subject of devastating storms, consider a report published last year by the National Hurricane Center. The title alone makes it worth a look:

THE DEADLIEST, COSTLIEST, AND MOST INTENSE UNITED STATES TROPICAL CYCLONES FROM 1851 TO 2010 (AND OTHER FREQUENTLY REQUESTED HURRICANE FACTS)

Specifically, the report breaks down deadliest from 1851-2010, and the most expensive from 1900 to 2010 (monetary damages aren't available for the earlier storms).

One really striking thing when you look at the list of the costliest storms is that six of the 10 costliest storms occurred between 2000 and 2010 — even after adjusting for inflation.

Then again, as the report points out, our population and our cities are much bigger today than they were 100 years ago, and our standard of living is higher. A megastorm can destroy much more stuff today simply because there is much more stuff out there for it to destroy.

So the authors also look back at historical hurricanes and estimate how much damage they would be likely to do if they hit the same area in 2010. That picture looks quite different.

Still, even in this version, eight out of the 30 costliest storms took place between 2000 and 2010.

BONUS: Here are both data sets as sortable tables.

Top Ten Costliest Storms in 2010 Dollars

Top Ten Costliest Storms Adjusted For Population And Housing

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