Hurricane Harvey was the most deadly and second-costliest weather event of US in the last decade

The category 4 storm was the wettest on record leaving much of Houston underwater at one point, and the second-costliest in US history


                            Hurricane Harvey was the most deadly and second-costliest weather event of US in the last decade
Damage by Hurricane Harvey taken just days after the storm. (Getty Images)

Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 storm that devastated Texas and Louisiana, has topped the league of the most devastating weather events of the last decade in the US.

Harvey stands out for several reasons, says the analysis, which evaluated the top 10 record-breaking US weather events of the last decade. The category 4 storm was the wettest on record, leaving much of Houston under the water at one point, and the second-costliest in the US history at $125 billion.

"Every year that goes by seems to bring a new round of record-breaking weather events," says retired meteorologist Douglas Le Comte -- a Weatherwise (magazine) contributing editor, who worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA's Climate Prediction Center -- in the analysis. 

The research was conducted by Le Comte, who has over 40 years' has done experience writing about global weather. The findings are based on data from the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) and National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Similar events are among the costliest and deadliest on record, according to the study. Hurricane Harvey is followed by the 2012 'Frankenstorm' Hurricane Sandy are the other top-scoring disasters on the deadly front. The deadly Hurricane Maria -- which ripped through Dominica, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico in the same year as Harvey -- is ranked third.

According to the analysis, Hurricane Maria and Sandy were third and fourth most costly respectively, and fifth was Hurricane Irma, which is ranked in fourth place overall in the extreme weather league.

Flood water damage to the Montague under river tube caused by Hurricane Sandy. (Getty Images)

“The cost of all ten events on the list, which claimed more than 4,000 lives and caused numerous injuries, was more than $400 billion. Effects of some disasters are still being felt, with repairs to the New York City subway ongoing more than seven years after Hurricane Sandy,” says the study published in Weatherwise.

The rankings were made based on several parameters -- including each weather event's cost, death and injury toll, the size of the disaster, as well as its rarity by meteorological standards.

The study sources included the National Hurricane Center's costliest tropical cyclones tables, updated on January 26, 2018, and NCEI's 2019 report on Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters.

According to the expert, other events that made it to the top 10 include tornadoes, wildfires, and droughts. This includes the Southern Plains Drought (ranked 7th) from October 2010 to September 2011. “This persistent period of heat and dryness was blamed for 95 deaths and $14bn in losses to farmers and ranchers in states including Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas,” says the analysis.

It further says, “The 2011 Super Outbreak included the largest ever recorded number of multiple tornadoes from the same weather system. In April of that year, more than 300 twisters brought destruction to five southeast US states. Just one month later, another severe weather outbreak hit the central and southern states with 180 tornadoes. Together, the events claimed nearly 500 lives and left 1,150 injured.”

Le Comte says in the findings that many disasters -- powerful hurricanes, massive wildfires, unprecedented droughts, and record-smashing heatwaves -- have devastating consequences, not just in North America, but elsewhere as well. He says the results highlight the need to monitor extreme weather at a time of climate change. “Witness the catastrophic wildfires in Australia. There's a need to track these events to gauge how our climate is shifting in a warming world," he says.

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