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Most billion-dollar disasters on record in US occurred in 2020

Of the 22 billion-dollar disasters, seven were tropical cyclones in the record-setting hurricane season.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Anyone around Tampa Bay knows 2020 had a lot of named tropical cyclones. In fact, a record number of named tropical storms formed in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall. 

The nation also had its most active wildfire year on record due to very dry conditions in the West and unusually warm temperatures that gripped much of the country. 

In early October, 10 Tampa Bay wrote about how Hurricane Delta could thrust 2020 into having the most billion-dollar disasters on record. It did. The country ended up with an unprecedented 22 billion-dollar disasters in 2020.  

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), here are the billion-dollar disasters in 2020 that killed at least 262 people and injured many more:

  • 1 wildfire event (Western wildfires focused across California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington)
  • 1 drought and heatwave event (summer/fall across Western and Central U.S.)
  • 3 tornado outbreaks (including the Nashville tornado and Easter outbreak) 
  • 7 tropical cyclones (Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, Zeta and Eta)
  • 10 severe weather events (including the Midwest derecho and Texas hail storms) 
Credit: NOAA

Damages from these disasters exceeded $1 billion each and totaled approximately $95 billion for all 22 events.

The seven billion-dollar tropical cyclones were the most in one year since NOAA started keeping track of billion-dollar disasters in 1980. The extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season produced an unprecedented 30 named storms, with 12 making landfall in the continental U.S. 

The combined cost of the seven tropical systems was approximately $40.1 billion, more than 42 percent of the total U.S. billion-dollar disaster price tag in 2020.

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