Hurricane Isaac ripped through the gulf causing widespread damage from Florida to Louisiana. It served as a grim reminder of the real costs of a natural disaster. Isaac might be the most destructive storm of the 2012 hurricane season, but it doesn't compare to the deadliest storms in U.S. history. The National Hurricane Center publishes a record of the costliest hurricanes going back to 1851. Four of the five deadliest storms formed since 2004.
5. Ivan ($19,832,000,000)
Hurricane Ivan struck in 2004 after forming as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa. Ivan was responsible for 92 deaths, 25 of which were in the United States, as it followed a path similar to Hurricane Isaac. The storm spawned 117 tornadoes over a three-day period, causing destruction along with storm surge damage from the hurricane itself, resulting in more than 650,000 insurance claims being filed. Ivan formed only 10.6 degrees north of the equator, making it the southernmost hurricane on record.
4. Wilma ($20,587,000,000)
Hurricane Wilma was a 2005 category three storm that formed in the Caribbean and traveled over the southern tip of Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. It continued up the east coast of the United States, but never made landfall a second time. At its peak, the eye of Wilma was only two nautical miles wide, making it the smallest of any known hurricane. Much of the damage was confined to the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba, but Southern Florida experienced the largest power outage in its history with over 98% of the area without power.
3. Ike ($27,790,000,000)
Hurricane Ike was a 2008 storm, which formed in the mid-Atlantic as a tropical depression. It was categorized as a level-two hurricane, but it reached the Caribbean with widespread damage potential. Ike entered the Gulf of Mexico a short time later, making landfall in Eastern Texas and carved a path through the United States.
Although we are sometimes able to financially prepare for a natural disaster, no one can be prepared for casualties. Ike was responsible for 103 deaths, and caused significant damage to Cuba, the Bahamas and numerous other Caribbean nations. It also caused damage in the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. As it made landfall and traveled north, significant damage was reported in Texas where 20 of the 103 deaths were reported.
2. Andrew ($45,561,000,000)
Andrew started off small, but became a very powerful hurricane with maximum sustained winds reaching 145 mph. Andrew passed through the Bahamas and over Florida before reaching the Gulf of Mexico, where it strengthened into a category five hurricane and made landfall in Louisiana.
At the time, it was the costliest storm in U.S. history. There were 26 direct casualties and 65 total deaths if we include those indirectly linked to the storm. In Florida, Andrew destroyed more than 25,000 homes and caused severe damage to over 100,000 others. The oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico was hit hard, with 13 oil platforms overturned along with significant damage to other equipment. Although the damage was extensive, meteorologists reported that many lives were spared as a result of Andrew making landfall in a sparsely populated area of Louisiana.
1. Katrina ($105,840,000,000)
The financial effects of any natural disaster can often be grand, but there is no doubt that Katrina remains the most destructive and well-known hurricane to American citizens. Who could forget the aerial photographs of the damage done to the Louisiana area, as well as the widespread criticism of the federal and state governments over their handling of the storm?
Katrina made landfall in Florida, and was ultimately categorized as a category three storm. It caused major damage to the southern tip of the state before entering the Gulf of Mexico and strengthening into a category five hurricane. It again made landfall as a category three Hurricane near New Orleans causing large scale, catastrophic damage. In addition to Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Texas were affected. Over 1,800 people lost their lives as a result of the storm. Seven years later, the damage caused by Katrina is still not fully repaired.
The Bottom Line
Hurricane Isaac made landfall in the New Orleans area one day before the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, an eerie and ominous reminder of the destruction from 2005. To the relief of local residents, Isaac didn't cause a fraction of the damage of Katrina, but Katrina is still fresh in the minds of the people of New Orleans seven years later. The economics of all natural disasters are always felt among many.