Ten major floods since 2010 have cost Americans $34 billion. The December 2015 floods will add a sky-high $3 billion to the bill once all the damage is repaired.
As more data becomes available, we’ll break out the flood cost for the recent flood by region. We’ve also compared the total cost of the 2015 flood to the nine other major U.S. flood events in the past four years. Scroll down to view cost by flood event in the table below. Floods are listed in a reverse timeline order.
2015 Flood – December, Missouri and the Midwest: $3 Billion
The late December 2015 floods in Missouri and the Midwest will cost an estimated $3 billion. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in the face of the anticipated damage. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assessed at least 19 levees as highly vulnerable to being breached. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon activated the National Guard to help with rescue efforts.
Some residents are unhappy with the speed and scope of the government response. Angry tweets like the one below aren’t hard to find:
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) December 30, 2015
The Mississippi River crested about 14 feet above flood stage. At least 20 deaths are already reported. A Missouri tourist town called Rockaway Beach has been entirely demolished by the flood, according to Mayor Don Smith. A nearby dam was unable to restrain a record breaking 72,000 cubic feet of water every second.
Damage will be widespread. The flood covers a massive area of several states. The image below from Esri Disaster Relief shows the affected area. Also see: The Exploding Cost of Childcare in the U.S.
Cost of Every Major Flood Since 2010
The table below shows the cost of every major flood since the start of 2011. The data in the table comes from the U.S. National Climactic Data Center. The floods listed all cost Americans at least $1 billion each. The least expensive were the April 2013 flood in Illinois and the August 2014 Northeast flood, both at $1 billion. The most expensive was the widespread flood all over the Atlantic Coast from Hurricane Irene. That flood cost a staggering $14 billion.
|Total major flood damage, 2011-2015 (national disasters only)||$34,000,000,000|
|2015 Flood||Missouri, Illinois, Midwest||$3,000,000,000 (Estimated)|
|2014 Flood (August)||Michigan, Northeast||$1,000,000,000|
|2014 Flood (April)||Midwest, Southeast, Northeast||$2,000,000,000|
|2013 Flood (September)||Colorado||$2,000,000,000|
|2013 Flood (April)||Illinois||$1,000,000,000|
|2013 Flood (August, Hurricane Isaac)||Southeast||$3,000,000,000|
|2011 Flood (September)||Southeast, Northeast||$3,000,000,000|
|2011 Flood (August, Hurricane Irene)||Atlantic Coast||$14,000,000,000|
|2011 Flood (May-June)||Midwest||$2,000,000,000|
|2011 Flood (April-May)||Midwest||$3,000,000,000|
On 12/29/15, 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick apologized for posting an insensitive photo to his Instagram account. The photo showed submerged cars and carried the caption, “I warned you, the #7torm’s coming!!! #Houston,” apparently trash-talking the Houston Texans.
2014 Flood – August, Michigan and the Northeast: $1 Billion
Heavy rains dropped 5 inches of water across Michigan in August of 2014. The floods cost $1 billion in damage to businesses, homes, cars and infrastructure. Flooding from the storm spread as far as Maryland and New York, where 24 hours of rain dumped 6 to 12 inches. The IRS gave tax relief to residents in affected areas in the form of tax breaks. Taxpayers in declared disaster areas usually receive deadline extensions and credits. Casualty loss credits and the waiver of penalties and fees are among the tax breaks given by the IRS to help flood victims deal with damage costs.
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2014 Flood – April, Midwest, East Coast: $2 Billion
An April 2014 storm spanning the Midwest, Southeast and even the Northeast spawned 83 tornadoes in 15 states. The storms carried torrential rainfall and flooding in some areas. Florida and Alabama were the hardest hit by flood damage. Costs for the storm ran to $2 billion nationwide. Record rains of 11 to 21 inches were reported in areas along the Gulf Coast.
The flooding damaged 3200 homes in Pensacola alone. More than half of the homes were significantly damaged, with 13 totally destroyed. Costs to repair the infrastructure in the County ran to $30 million. The video below gives good coverage of the damage on a residential scale.
2013 Flood – September, Colorado: $2 Billion
Costs for the 2013 Colorado floods totaled $2 billion. The flood happened when a front stalled out over the state and hammered the area with rain. 15 inches of water fell over a period of days. The floods were unprecedented in size, causing destruction of homes, infrastructure and businesses.
No, not another picture of a mall being demolished. Today marked the one year anniversary of the devastating flood here in Longmont and surrounding communities. We’ve come along way since then! A photo posted by Raquel (@a.pretty.good.life) on
Flood waters ranged over a 200 mile area. At least eight people died. 19,000 homes were reported damaged. More than 1,500 homes were totally destroyed. Infrastructure damaged in the flood included 30 highway bridges destroyed and another 20 damaged. Costs to the damaged transportation infrastructure alone ran high into the millions. Several rail lines that ran alongside riverbeds were washed out entirely.
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2013 Flood – April, Illinois: $1 Billion
The 2013 Illinois flood cost Americans an estimated $1 billion. The cause of the flooding was a slow-moving storm that dropped 5 to 10 inches of rainfall across Chicago and Northern and Central Illinois. The costs came from damage to businesses, homes and infrastructure.
The flood caused massive property damage, with residents describing towns looking like war zones. The flood was ranked as the fifth worst in Illinois history. The Red Cross opened shelters and a state of emergency was declared.
2012 Flood – August, Southeast (Hurricane Isaac): $3 Billion
Flooding from Hurricane Isaac in 2012 cost a total of $3 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers had just rejected a $1 billion storm surge protection plan that would have protected 20,000 homes in Louisiana. A cost/benefit analysis showed the plan would cost more than it would save.
After the flood, Greater New Orleans did approve 134,000 feet of mostly earthen levees, 40 foot roller gates and 6,000 feet of concrete dam. Area flood protection engineers liken the projects to “putting bricks on Jell-O.”
Future plans to protect the New Orleans area from flooding will have costs well into the billions. The improvements won’t be finished for another 20 to 30 years.
2011 Flood – September, Southeast, Northeast: $3 Billion
Flood costs associated with Tropical Storm Lee in September of 2011 cost an estimated $3 billion. The flooding covered 11 states. Water damage was most severe throughout the Northeast.
The storm spawned 30 tornadoes and caused significant damage to homes, infrastructure and businesses. 18 deaths were reported nationwide.
Damage costs in New York alone topped $1 billion. The damage from these floods was aggravated by recent flooding from Hurricane Irene just one week earlier. Repairs to just two bridges in Pennsylvania cost an estimated $25 million.
2011 Flood – August, Hurricane Irene, Atlantic Coast: $14 Billion
Hurricane Irene caused by far the highest cost of any flood from 2011-2015. The category 1 hurricane moved from North Carolina up the coast. The storm delivered torrential rains and flooding. More than seven million businesses and homes lost power during the event.
Including the Caribbean, flooding and wind damage from Irene cost $16 billion total. The storm killed 67 people. It was the most expensive storm since 1980. $370 million in damage was reported in the Caribbean. A further $1.2 billion in damage was reported in North Carolina alone.
2011 Flood – May/June, Midwest: $2 Billion
One cost associated with this flood was the thousands of acres of farmland that were inundated. All six major Missouri River dams were forced to release record amounts of water. The town of Pierre, South Dakota estimated their costs at $13 million. The power company, OPPD, reported it spent $26 million shoring up and repairing its plants.
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2011 Flood – April, Midwest: $3 Billion
The $3 billion Mississippi flood in 2011 is really an extension of the Missouri flood one month later. The flood came from record snowpack in the Rockies mixed with 300% above normal rainfall. The flood caused $525 million in damages to agriculture in Arkansas. Other costs include $336 million in damages in Memphis, Tennessee and $840 million to Mississippi’s agriculture.
Missouri sustained $333 million in damage to property in agriculture from the flood.
Is Flooding Getting Worse?
It can be hard to tell whether flooding is getting worse or if it only seems that way. One often cited explanation is that media reports are getting faster and more accurate. However, solid data shows that flood costs since 1980 haven’t risen notably. The chart below tracks the number of billion dollar flood events in the past 35 years.
Looking at flood cost alone however doesn’t show the total picture. Even adjusted for inflation, the number of overall billion dollar weather events has risen drastically in the past 35 years.
Flood Cost Tools
On a personal level, homeowners looking to protect themselves from shelling out for flood costs can make use of tools at FloodSmart.gov. The site provides both before and after protection for homeowners.
- Before the flood: Low cost flood insurance. The government gives access to low cost flood insurance for homeowners who live in high risk areas. Click here to visit the site.
- After the flood: Flood cost assessment help. FloodSmart.gov provides a tool to estimate the cost of flood damage to a home.