Hurricane Michael Likely To Be the 12th Billion-Dollar U.S. Weather Disaster of 2018

Chris Dolce
Published: October 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael is likely to become the 12th billion-dollar weather disaster to affect the United States in 2018.

Through September, the nation had seen 11 weather disasters that cost a billion dollars or more. The first was a winter storm just after the New Year and the most recent was Hurricane Florence, according to NOAA's report released Tuesday.

Visible satellite view of Michael at landfall on Wednesday afternoon. (NOAA)

Michael made landfall Wednesday afternoon as a strong Category 4 with 155 mph winds near Mexico Beach, Florida.

"While it is far too early to know the exact cost of Michael, we are inevitably going to be facing economic damage measured in the billions of dollars," said Steve Bowen, a meteorologist at Aon Benfield.

Last year had 16 billion-dollar weather disasters, tying 2011 for the most in a year dating to 1980. After Michael is likely included, 2018 would have 12 billion-dollar weather disasters, ranking as fourth most on record for a single year.

Below are the 11 billion-dollar U.S. weather disasters that occurred before Michael struck, according to NOAA.

1. Eastern Winter Storm, Jan. 3-5

Winter Storm Grayson swept through the eastern states just after the New Year, leaving a swath of snow, sleet and freezing rain from northern Florida to Maine.

Blizzard conditions, heavy snow and major coastal flooding walloped the Northeast as Grayson's area of low pressure underwent bombogenesis.

NOAA says the winter storm caused $1.1 billion in damage and killed 22 people.

(RECAP: Grayson's Bombogenesis | South Impacts)

Satellite image of Winter Storm Grayson off the East Coast on Jan. 4, 2018.

2. Northeast Winter Storm, March 1-3

March came in like a lion in the Northeast as Winter Storm Riley pummeled the region with heavy snow, high winds and major coastal flooding.

The high-impact Nor'easter caused widespread damage in the Northeast, according to NOAA. At the height of the storm, more than 2 million lost power.

Riley caused $2.2 billion in damage and killed 9 people.

(RECAP: Winter Storm Riley)

Roads in Scituate, Massachusetts littered with debris from coastal flooding on Saturday, March 3, 2018. (Peter Bonner)

3. Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather, March 18-21

Severe thunderstorms ripped through the South in mid-March with tornadoes, destructive straight-line winds and large hail.

A tornado outbreak occurred in northern Alabama on March 19, including an EF3-rated tornado that caused extensive damage in Jacksonville, Alabama.

Total damage from the severe weather was $1.4 billion, encompassing a swath from Texas to Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.

(RECAP: Record-Setting Hailstone in Alabama)

Two cars are turned over in front of a tornado-damaged apartment complex in Jacksonville, Alabama. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

4. South and East Tornadoes and Severe Weather, April 13-16

Severe thunderstorms with tornadoes and large hail spread across parts of the southern and eastern states in mid-April.

NOAA says there were over 70 confirmed tornadoes.

The northern side of this storm system, known as Winter Storm Xanto, brought heavy snow to the upper Midwest and then spread into the interior Northeast with accumulating ice and strong winds.

Damage from the severe weather cost $1.3 billion and three people died.

5. Central and Northeast Severe Weather, May 1-4

A storm system advancing from the Great Plains to the Northeast spawned tornadoes, damaging wind gusts and hail in the first four days of May.

Large hail caused significant damage in parts of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois on May 2. Numerous trees were downed on May 4 across the interior Northeast.

The storms caused $1 billion in damage, but no one was killed.

(PHOTOS: Early May Severe Weather)

Hail damage seen on a house in Janesville, Wis. after a severe storm came through the area Wednesday night, May 2, 2018. (JennaMiddaugh/WISC-TV News 3)

6. Central and Eastern Severe Weather, May 13-15

This three-day bout of severe storms across the central and eastern states featured two widespread wind damage events known as derechos. 

The first derecho struck the mid-Atlantic on May 14, including parts of the Washington, D.C. metro. That was followed up by a second derecho in the Northeast on May 15.

Damage from the severe weather cost an estimated $1.4 billion. Five people were killed by the storms in the Northeast on May 15.

(MORE: Back-to-Back Derechos)

Thunderstorm high wind/wind damage swaths from the May 14 (left) and May 15 (right), 2018 derechos in the East. Each swath exceeded the 248 mile - 400 kilometer - length threshold to qualify as a derecho, per the Ashley and Mote, 2005 study. (Storm reports: NOAA/NWS/SPC)

7. Texas Hail Storm, June 6

Thunderstorms produced hail up to the size of baseballs in the Dallas-Forth Worth metro area in the early morning hours of June 6, damaging homes, businesses and automobiles.

When severe storms produce large hail over a major metro area, it typically results in a hefty price tag since a dense population is affected. This hailstorm was no exception, causing $1 billion in damage.

(MORE: Large Hail Pummels Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex)

Radar loop from 12-3 a.m. CT and storm reports from the Dallas metro hailstorm on June 6, 2018. The white arrow denotes the storm responsible for the most destructive hail. The gray arrow highlights the other storm left over after the initial storm split.

8. Colorado Hail Storm, June 18-19

Large hail the size of golf balls and baseballs pummelled the Interstate 25 corridor from Denver to Boulder and Fort Collins.

Homes, businesses and vehicles suffered widespread damage, amounting to $2.1 billion in damage.

9. Hurricane Florence, Sept. 13-16

Florence's slow movement resulted in record-breaking rainfall and river flooding in the Carolinas.

Damaging storm surge up to 10 feet was reported near the coast. New Bern, North Carolina, was particularly hard hit by storm surge.

The damage cost for Florence in North Carolina is unknown at this time, but NOAA says it's expected to exceed Matthew (2016) and Floyd (1999).

Florence also killed 51 people, according to NOAA.

(MORE: Florence Recap)

10. Southwest, Southern Plains Drought, June 1-Sept. 30

Drought conditions have contributed to at least a billion dollars in losses across parts of the Southwest and Plains in 2018.

NOAA says the lack of rainfall caused damage to crops and the high cost of feed forced ranchers to sell some of their livestock.

11. Western Wildfires, Summer-Fall 2018

Damaging wildfires have affected several western states from summer into early fall. 

California was particularly hard with the Mendocino Complex becoming the largest fire in the state's history. The Carr Fire near Redding damaged or destroyed more than 1,500 homes and businesses.

There is no estimate for the total cost of the western wildfires at this time, but they have caused at least $1 billion in damage.

In addition, 15 people have been killed by wildfires so far this year.

A burnt-out motorcycle in the Keswick neighborhood of Redding on July 31, 2018. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)


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