NOAA: $1B-Disasters Ties U.S. Record Before a Hurricane Hits

Updated: Aug. 18, 2:11 p.m. EDT

NU Online News Service, Aug. 17, 2:01 p.m. EDT

Nine weather-related disasters this year have cost at least $1 billion in economic losses, which ties the record number of disasters the United States experienced in 2008—and the hurricane season still looms, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA says that so far this year there have been $35 billion suffered in economic losses across the United States.

The latest the event to surpass $1 billion was the summer flooding along the Missouri and Sioux rivers in the upper Midwest.

“I don’t think it takes a wizard to predict that 2011 is likely to go down as one of the more extreme years for weather in history,” says Jack Hayes, director of NOAA National Weather Services.

He says the figures released today mark the highest degree of economic loss cost to date since NOAA began keeping such records in 1980.

The year includes the fourth deadliest tornado year, with over 540 deaths—150 coming from the twister in Joplin, Mo., the deadliest in five years.

Oklahoma has broken the record for the hottest month for any state with 89.1 degree average, he notes. There have been numerous wildfires and flooding that has damaged “millions of acres of land” and displaced “numerous numbers of people.”

Hayes notes that Munich Re released figures saying the number of natural disasters has tripled in the last 20 years, and 2010 was a record breaker with about 250.

The average number of losses from thunderstorms has increased significantly since 1980. For the first half of 2011, there was $20 billion in losses from thunderstorms, up from the three-year average of $10 billion.

The release of the statistics coincided with a new effort by NOAA, emergency managers and meteorologists to build a weather-ready nation.

During a conference call today Hayes, joined by Eddie Hicks, president of the International Association of Emergency Managers and Jon Malay, president of the American Meteorological Society, say they are launching a new effort to get people to better understand the threat from severe weather. Their aim is to better educate and inform people about severe weather, make plans to deal with those events and be willing and able to put their plans into action.

“Readiness, in our mind, is reducing the impacts for extreme weather that we can’t prevent,” says Hayes.

In response to an e-mail question concerning what role the insurance industry would play in this initiative, Chris Strager, eastern region director of the National Weather Service says, “The insurance industry plays a central role in helping America become a Weather-Ready nation. Insurance planning is a key aspect of personal preparedness. In the aftermath of destructive weather, it can help people recover from devastating economic loss and start to rebuild their lives.”

This story was updated with the last paragrahph on Aug. 18 at 2:11 p.m. EDT 

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