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Hurricane Ian ranks as the costliest natural disaster in USA during 2022

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Posted at 5:21 PM, Jan 11, 2023

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — According to a NOAA report released on Tuesday, Hurricane Ian ranked as the costliest billion disaster in the United States for 2022. The storm racked up a total cost of 112.9 billion dollars. That also ranks it third most costly hurricane since 1980 for the U.S., behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

“2016 to 2022, the United States has been impacted by 122 separate billion dollar or higher cost events,” says Applied Climatologist Adam Smith, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. “And if you add all that together, that is over 5,000 fatalities and over 1 trillion dollars in damage. That is both insured and uninsured.”

Over the last several years, many of those disasters were landfalling tropical systems, including five of the last six years the United States got hit by a major hurricane. Smith says we have never had such a high frequency of high-end hurricanes hitting the United States since 1951.

“We have a lot of exposure, a lot of vulnerability along the coast, but these hurricanes of course are rapidly intensifying,” said Smith. “A lot of times they slow down and rain themselves out. So, it is certainly a growing problem of risk.

That risk became a reality for Southwest Florida this past September with Hurricane Ian.

“The storm surge at the coast, of course, the extreme winds, but even the heavy rainfall and the flooding well inland,” said Smith. “Those areas of course don’t have high rates of flood insurance. The exposure, the population, the intensity of Ian all added up to create a really impactful storm that makes the record books.”

Smith says that Ian joins a growing list of high-end hurricanes that have changed the landscape of mitigation for the state of Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“What went well, what didn’t. Take the best practice. Build for the future, don’t build for the past or the present, because it will pay for itself as we move into the future,” said Smith. “We know we are going to continue to have a wild variety of these extremes that affect many different areas of our country.”

For the year 2022, Hurricane Ian was one of the 18-billion-dollar disasters in the United States, totaling approximately $165 billion dollars, making it the most costly year on record, only behind 2017 and 2005. Those disasters also lead to the deaths of at least 474 people.