Hurricanes are tremendously destructive storms that can devastate homes and destroy lives. Human lives are irreplaceable, but insurance policies can replace any property or goods that are damaged or destroyed.
The most recent storm to hit the U.S., Hurricane Irene, caused widespread damage and affected areas are still recovering. Total damage is expected to result in insurance claims up to $3 billion, according to research firm Kinetic Analysis. Before the storm hit, CNN Money had estimated as much as $11 billion in damages and Kinetic had estimated up to $7 billion. Damage is still being assessed.
To put Irene in perspective, some of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history are listed below, with monetary damage figures. All dollar amounts are based on National Hurricane Center figures. Monetary figures have been adjusted for inflation and were converted to 2011 U.S. dollars based on the Consumer Price Index.
2005's Hurricane Katrina was the most damaging hurricane in United States history. The first wave of devastation began on August 27, when the storm unleashed its fury on coastal Florida. When it made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29, 2005, Katrina devastated New Orleans' Ninth Ward and wiped out residential neighborhoods throughout coastal Louisiana and Mississippi. After Katrina, insurance claims for property damage totaled $93.2 billion in 2011 dollars. Sadly, and more importantly, Katrina took significantly more lives than any other U.S. storm on record. According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 1,500 people died as a result of Katrina, most due to flooding after the Lower Ninth Ward's levees gave way. To put Katrina's damage into perspective, consider this: from the period 1990 through 2010, the most deaths attributed to any other hurricane was 60.
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Hurricane Andrew was a major storm in the otherwise quiet hurricane season of 1992. Andrew stands out as one of only three hurricanes to have hit the continental U.S. while classified as a Category 5 (wind speeds in excess of 156 miles per hour). The storm was responsible for more than $42.12 billion (2011 dollars) in insurance claims in southern coastal Florida and parts of Louisiana.
2005 was a record year for tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane Wilma tormented residents of Cuba, Florida, and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (including Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya). The storm did a whopping $23.73 billion (2011 dollars) in damage, most of which occurred in Florida.
2004's Hurricane Charley hit coastal South Carolina and the Fort Myers, Florida, area in 2004. The storm made landfall as a Category 4 storm and was responsible for approximately $17.84 billion in insurance claims (2011 dollars) .
Another Category 4 hurricane in 2004, Ivan wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, particularly in Grenada but also in Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and parts of Cuba. Ivan also did significant damage -- an estimated $16.89 billion (2011 dollars) -- in parts of southern Alabama and the neighboring Florida panhandle. As hurricanes go, Ivan was a whopper and it lasted a really long time. At its strongest point over the Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane was more than 260,000 square miles in size. According to meteorologists, more than 100 tornadoes were a direct result of the dying storm.
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In September 1989, Hugo rained down on the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm. It later caused $14.57 billion (2011 dollars) of damage when it came ashore in South Carolina as a Category 4 storm.
One of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes on record, Rita stormed the Gulf coast in September of 2005. In a region that had just been unloaded on by the unprecedented destruction of Katrina, Rita was a cause for alarm. An estimated 3 million people fled their homes in coastal Texas and Louisiana, including more than 2 million citizens of Houston. Rita ultimately caused more than $13.01 billion (2011 dollars) in insurance claims - a significant amount, but less damaging than many feared.
The most intense Atlantic hurricane of 2008, Ike made landfall as a Category 2 and was responsible for an estimated $11.79 billion (2011 dollars) in insurance claims throughout coastal Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas .
Although only a Category 1 when it made landfall, Agnes was a destructive storm indeed. A June hurricane, which is a rarity, Hurricane Agnes began its destruction in coastal Georgia, the Florida panhandle, and the Carolinas. The storm system was responsible for more than 100 deaths and caused torrential rain as far north as Pennsylvania and New York. All told, Agnes did $11.2 billion worth of damage in 2011 dollars.
2004's Hurricane Frances, a Category 3 storm, poured on the Caribbean and Puerto Rico before making landfall again in Florida. The storm accelerated aggressively, causing storms as far north as Canada before finally tapering off. All told, Frances was responsible for $10.58 billion in damages in 2011 dollars.
Hurricane Camille made landfall in the continental U.S. in August, 1969. Camille was responsible for more than 200 deaths and $8.77 billion (2011 dollars) in insurance claims throughout Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Virginia. Camille was the second of three Category 5 storms to hit the continental U.S. in the 20th century.
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