2011 was the most expensive U.S. hurricane season since 2008, and the U.S. tornado season was the third most active since 1980, according to a new report by CoreLogic, an analytics company.
Although only three named Atlantic storms made landfall, Hurricane Irene and tropical storms Lee and Don caused $8 billion in damage, primarily from flooding. The 2011 "super outbreak" of tornadoes between April 25 and April 28 was the largest ever recorded, with 336 confirmed tornadoes across the South, Midwest and Northeast.
Property, casualty and commercial insurance companies are starting to re-evaluate risk for tornado damage beyond the traditional geographic areas known for the storms, CoreLogic said.
The wildfire season included fewer, but larger, fires. There was a shift in home losses from California, which had a cooler and wetter-than-average fire season, to the drought-affected states of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The Wallow fire in Arizona, the largest fire in that state's history, burned more than 469,000 acres. Texas and Oklahoma each experienced a record number of widlfires. The Bastrop fire in Texas destroyed 1,600 homes and structures, and burned 34,000 acres. Intensifying drought conditions could spread wildfire activity in early 2012, according to the report.
Meanwhile, U.S. earthquakes in Virginia and Oklahoma were a wake-up call for Central and Eastern U.S. residents who may have believed earthquakes were strictly a Western phenomenon.
U.S. flooding in 2011 heightened awareness of flood risk outside of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 100-year flood zones. CoreLogic estimates U.S. flood losses at $10.67 billion for 2011.
FEMA administers the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides the majority of flood insurance for homes and businesses nationwide. Flood damage is not covered under standard home insurance.
"Several major urban areas faced unexpected catastrophes in 2011, putting disaster readiness plans and emergency response teams to the test and causing severe damage in regions underprepared for unusual weather events," Howard Botts, executive vice president and director of database development for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions, said in a press statement. "As a result, homeowners, insurers, government officials and even the news media have been forced to rethink the way they view, plan for and react to natural hazards."