Historical Hurricane Damage

August 29th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Here are a few estimates of damage from relevant historical hurricanes had they occurred in 2004. I’d guess, and it is nothing more than a guess, that Katrina will exceed the amounts of Betsy, Camille and Hugo but not Andrew.

1965 Betsy $18 billion
1969 Camille $19 billion
1989 Hugo $16 billion
1992 Andrew $66 billion

For methods, see this paper:

Pielke, Jr., R. A., and C. W. Landsea, 1998: Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1925-95. Weather and Forecasting, American Meteorological Society, Vol. 13, 621-631. (PDF)

7 Responses to “Historical Hurricane Damage”

  1. Roger Pielke Jr. Says:

    Correction: Andrew should be $58 billion and this includes both FL and LA landfalls.

  2. 2
  3. Steve Bloom Says:

    With 80% of a major city flooded along with many of its suburbs, do you still think Katrina will be in second place?

  4. 3
  5. Roger Pielke Jr. Says:


    Thanks. It sure does look like Katrina will rival Andrew for second place (after the great 1926 storm, at a normalized ~$110 billion) in terms of total losses. My guess is that the flooding won’t dramatically increase the total to insurers, as flooding generally is covered by the government. It is without a doubt a huge disaster.

  6. 4
  7. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    As New Orleans continues to be engulfed by flood waters, it is looking more and more like this could be the most consequential natural disaster ever in the US.

  8. 5
  9. Dylan Otto Krider Says:

    Not every day a city this large gets washed off the map. I think this will hit the number one spot. Is it even worth rebuilding there?

  10. 6
  11. Steve Bloom Says:

    From the WWL blog: ‘3:43 P.M. – Senator Vitter: New Orleans will “absolutely” be rebuilt.’

    This is my second favorite quote so far after Mayor Nagin’s comment that this is an “event of a lifetime” (meaning in context that we don’t have to worry about this event repeating itself in the forseeable future).

    So, let’s say they rebuild. Then a Cat 5 hits the rebuilt city dead-on (as almost occurred this time). Is there any chance that we won’t see something very similar to what we’re seeing now, albeit with with a lot more direct storm damage and loss of life?

    Our problem is that the same politicians we hope will exercise reasonable caution with regard to global warming will within a matter of weeks be voting to spend the billions necessary to repaint the target.

  12. 7
  13. Steve Bloom Says:

    Re the below: What engineering geniuses thought it would be fine to place these pumps below sea level and under roofs that were collapsible in a major hurricane (when they would be needed most)? More evidence that human society is incapable of rational long-term planning.

    New Orleans Pumps: New Orleans flooding may last for days[sic]


    “… Flooding specialists predicted that conditions could worsen as
    authorities focused first on saving people trapped in buildings.

    Some flood-control pumps were broken, choked by excess water or storm
    debris. Others were lacking power needed to run. Roofs were reported
    collapsed on at least two major pumping stations. Without the pumps,
    much of the flood water will have nowhere to drain in this city cradled
    within a bowl, at an average of six feet below sea level.

    In a frustrating catch-22, it will be hard to fix the pumps and restore
    their power while they are under water, but it’s hard to drain the
    water without the pumps, the flood experts warned. …”