Science

California Storm Damage Could Top $1 Billion

California Storm Damage Could Top $1 Billion

The damage from weeks of storms and flooding in California could exceed a billion dollars, according to the state’s emergency agency and private weather forecasters. That toll comes on the heels of 2022, one of the worst on record for large-scale weather and climate disasters around the United States, according to data released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It’s likely that this is going to be at least several billion dollars,” said Jonathan Porter, chief meteorologist at AccuWeather. “It will unfortunately join the club of billion-dollar disasters.”

The nation was struck last year by 18 disasters that caused more than $1 billion each in damage. That’s the third-highest number in the 43 years that NOAA has been keeping records.

The only other years on record with more billion-dollar disasters, adjusted for inflation, are 2020 and 2021.

At the top of the 2022 list is Hurricane Ian, which caused $113 billion in damage, the country’s third-costliest hurricane since 1980 behind Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. The drought and heat wave in the Western and Central United States was the second-worst disaster in 2022, causing $22 billion in damage.

All told, last year’s 18 large-scale disasters caused $165 billion in damage, according to NOAA — greater than the annual economic output of West Virginia and Alaska put together.

Here are some other reasons last year’s disasters stood out:

  • Hurricane Nicole, which struck Florida on Nov. 10, was the first November hurricane to make landfall in the United States in almost 40 years.

  • Typhoon Merbok, which damaged homes in Alaska, was “the strongest storm to enter the Bering Sea during September in 70 years.”

  • Alaska passed the million-acre mark for land burned by wildfires on June 18 — the earliest in the past 32 years. Average temperatures in Alaska were 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal last year, almost double the temperature increase in the contiguous United States.

  • At least 40 percent of the land mass of the mainland United States has been in drought for the past 119 weeks — longer than at any other time in the 22 years the US Drought Monitor has been keeping track.

  • More tornadoes were reported in March 2022 than any other March on record, going back to 1950. There were 1,331 — three times the average for the month.

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