The federal government has declared a record number of disasters so far this year, even though hurricane season isn't over yet, according to the Insurance Information institute (III).
As of Sept. 30, federal officials had issued 86 disaster declarations, breaking the previous record of 81 set last year. Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.
"The number of U.S. disaster declarations has been trending sharply upward, particularly over the past 15 years," Robert Hartwig, III president and an economist, said in a press statement. "The average number of declarations between 1953 and 2010 was 34 per year. We're likely to see nearly three times that many by year-end 2011."
The declarations make federal money available for emergency recovery efforts to support local governments. Most recently, the federal government declared a disaster in an area of Delaware affected by Hurricane Irene.
Ten weather-related disasters this year each generated at least $1 billion in economic losses, including:
- The Groundhog Day blizzard that halted Chicago.
- A series of spring tornadoes in the South and Midwest.
- Summer wildfires in the Southwest and Southern Plains.
- Spring and summer flooding in the Upper Midwest and along the Mississippi River.
- Hurricane Irene on the East Coast in August.
U.S. business, car and home insurance companies paid out almost $25 billion in catastrophe claims through the first nine months of 2011, Hartwig said. This year is already the fifth or sixth most expensive year on record in the United States for catastrophic insured claim payouts.