Weather Disasters Busting the Bank for FEMA

August 31, 2011; 1:20 PM ET
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To almost no one's surprise, Hurricane Irene might bust FEMA's Federal Disaster Relief Fund.

How much did Irene cost? Most estimates range between $7 and $13 billion.

If the preliminary hurricane estimates are correct, 2011 will likely set a record for the highest number of billion-dollar weather disasters in a year. Hurricane Irene is projected to be the nation's 10th disaster costing a billion dollars or more this year, passing up the nine that occurred in 2008.

Irene is just another blow in an already expensive year for FEMA. Severe weather battered the United States this year, with hundreds of lives lost and a jaw-dropping price tag of $35 billion so far.

Aside from damage from hurricanes, storms and tornadoes, heat and drought worked to make this a tough year on the economy. The weather affected corn, cotton and wheat crops, especially in Texas and Oklahoma.

What's Next?

Hurricane season in the Atlantic keeps rolling until November, which could mean more FEMA payouts. AccuWeather's hurricane forecast predicts four direct hits by tropical systems on the United States.

Thus far, there have been two tropical hits on the U.S. this season: Tropical Depression Don and Hurricane Irene.

$1.8 billion (2011 adjusted) is the median amount of damage caused by an Atlantic hurricane that hits land in the United States.

The median cost is the most accurate measure of the middle of the data because Hurricane Katrina's immense damage, at $145 billion (2011 adjusted), inflates the average cost of a hurricane to close to $9 billion.

Take a look at the numbers: estimated damage in billions from hurricanes that directly hit the United States from 1980 to 2010. You can read the data and comment on Scribd.

Cost estimates from a hurricane don't include damage the system causes once it moves inland. The hurricane costs don't include costs from tropical storms.

After hurricane season ends in November, winter weather will close out the year in December. Severe blizzards can be just as costly as hurricanes.

(Don't) Let It Snow

It's not even Labor Day weekend and that dreaded word is on the horizon: SNOW.

Last winter's big storms hit state budgets hard.

And this year? meteorologists predict that this winter will be a cold and snowy one. Severe snow and ice storms also fall under FEMA domain.

The bottom line is that residents waiting for federal disaster relief need to prepare for the possibility that they may not receive it for quite some time.

Tell us what you think on the Facebook page. You can also tweet at us: @breakingweather and @accuweather Meteorologist Heather Buchman contributed to the content of this story.


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