Texas is among the states most impacted by natural disasters, study shows
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas is among the states most impacted by natural disasters, a new study finds.
The Lone Star State ranked third-most impacted by natural disasters in the WalletHub study, behind only Mississippi and Louisiana. Iowa and Alabama round out the top five.
The website ranked each state by looking at the number of natural disasters causing at least $1 billion in damages since 1980, as well as the damage cost per capita caused by those weather events.
Texas received a score of 83.97 out of 100 in the study and tied for first place — with Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and North Carolina — for the most billion-dollar disasters. Meanwhile, the state ranked eighth for the damage amount per capita.
Maine was ranked as the state least impacted by natural disasters, with a score of 10.4 out of 100. Alaska, New Hampshire and Hawaii also received scores of less than 15.
Since 1980, the National Centers for Environmental Information has reported 338 natural disasters that caused more than $1 billion in damages.
In the past 42 years, 15,689 deaths have been attributed to billion-dollar disasters nationwide, along with more than $2 trillion in estimated damages.
Tropical cyclones are the most destructive nationwide, accounting for about half of all estimated costs and about 44% of all deaths attributed to billion-dollar disasters.
In Texas specifically, tropical cyclones account for about a third of all estimated damage costs since 1980. The bulk of that was caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which alone caused almost $150 billion in damages.
Meanwhile, drought and severe storms, including tornadoes and hail storms, account for a little more than a quarter of all damages each.
When looking at deaths caused by billion-dollar disasters, half of all reported in Texas are attributed to drought and heatwaves, including 1,260 deaths in 1980, 872 in 1995 and 454 in 1988.
Tropical cyclones, which account for 33% of damage costs, caused only 7% of deaths in the state — 465 in total. Hurricane Rita, in 2005, and Hurricane Ike, in 2008, each caused more than 100 deaths in the state.
Winter storms cause disproportionately more deaths in Texas than damage. Since 1980, winter storms account for 7% of costs associated with billion-dollar disasters but 17% of deaths. That includes the deadly cold snap in February 2021, which killed more than 240 Texans, according to the state’s health department.
The number of billion-dollar disasters affecting Texas has been increasing over the past decade or so, particularly severe storms. Last year alone, Texas experienced 12 billion-dollar disasters, from the deadly winter storm to Hurricane Nicholas, which made landfall south of Houston as a Category 1 hurricane.
Nine severe weather outbreaks that caused more than $1 billion in damage were also reported last year, including hail storms in both March and April.
The maps below show the estimated damage costs in each state associated with billion-dollar disasters.
Texas has the highest total costs associated with drought, severe storms and winter storms. California is the most wildfire-affected state and is also heavily impacted by freezing weather, along with Florida.
Florida and Texas also appear in the top three states with the most costs associated with tropical cyclones. Louisiana has the most, with more than $249 billion in damages since 1980.
Hurricane Ian, which devastated parts of Florida last month, was recently named the 15th billion-dollar disaster of 2022. An exact damage estimate is yet to be determined.