Billion-dollar disasters: US on pace to top 2020 record, report says

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The U.S. is on pace to exceed 2020’s record number of billion-dollar disasters. 

According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report released Friday, 2021 has already seen 18 weather and climate disasters, each with losses topping $1 billion.

The events include the West’s historic megadrought, two floods, nine severe storms, four tropical cyclones and a major wildfire.

Jerilyn Collins wades through floodwaters Monday after being transported by the Louisiana National Guard back to her home to retrieve medicine for herself and her father, after she evacuated from rising water in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, La.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The disasters resulted in the deaths of 538 people and had significant economic effects in the impacted areas, costing an estimated $104.8 billion in damages, according to forecaster AccuWeather.

NOAA started tracking billion-dollar disasters in 1980, a decade after its founding. Last year, there were 22 such disasters – the most on record. 

FILE – In this May 18, 2015 file photo, irrigation pipes sit along a dry irrigation canal on a field near Stockton, Calif. 
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

The mayhem in 2020 cost the country nearly $100 billion, according to NOAA. 

There have been 308 billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. since 1980 with an average of 7.1 a year. But since 2018 alone, that average has more than doubled, to 16.7, according to NOAA data.

All of the disasters since 1980 combined have cost $2.085 trillion. There have been more than 14,000 deaths related to the events, with an average of more than 300 per year.

Ernest Hollis looks for items at his granddaughter’s house that was devastated by floodwaters, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Waverly, Tenn. 
(AP Photo/John Amis)

While all 50 states have had at least one billion-dollar disaster, more than 120 such disasters have impacted Texas – the most of any state.

Scientists say that due to the impacts of human-caused climate change, the number and intensity of weather and climate-related events will increase in coming years.

In an August report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climatologists warned that the Earth’s temperatures would blow past a level of warming that world leaders have sought to prevent, though easing back a little on the likelihood of the absolute worst climate catastrophes.

The Dixie Fire burns down a hillside towards Diamond Mountain Rd. near Taylorsville in Plumas County, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The United Nations said the report was a “code red for humanity.”

“It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse,” said report co-author Linda Mearns, a senior climate scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research told The Associated Press. “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

A new Pentagon climate report released Thursday calls for making worsening climate extremes a mandatory part of strategic planning, in addition to training troops how to secure their own water supplies and treat heat-related injuries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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