The 10 most expensive U.S. natural disasters (2023)

We break down the 10 most expensive natural disasters in 2023 that caused more than $56 billion in damages.

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Rachael BrennanSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertRachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Edited by

Jennifer GimbelJennifer GimbelSenior Managing Editor & Home Insurance ExpertJennifer Gimbel is a senior managing editor and home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our homeowners insurance coverage. Previously, she was the managing editor at Finder.com and a content strategist at Babble.com.

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The year 2023 saw a record number of billion-dollar natural disasters, totaling at least $92.9 billion dollars in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [1] These 28 natural disasters included: 

Of these, the 10 largest disasters caused a whopping $56.6 billion dollars in damage, along with more than 400 deaths and 200 injuries. These disasters spanned the entire country and damaged thousands of homes, which is why it is so important for homeowners to be properly insured.

But keep in mind homeowners insurance excludes damage caused by certain natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes, so homeowners may need to purchase additional coverage to make sure they are fully protected from storm damage.

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The 10 most expensive U.S. natural disasters in 2023

1. Southern & Midwestern drought & heat wave

  • When: Spring through fall

  • Number of deaths: 247

  • Cost of damage: $14.5 billion

Several states were impacted by heat and drought conditions, including Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, as well as surrounding states. The heat and drought caused significant property damage, including damage to crops and livestock. 

The drought also contributed to low water levels in the Mississippi River, reducing available water and allowing salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to move farther north into the river than normal, affecting water quality for several Gulf states. 

2. Southern & Eastern severe weather

  • When: March 2–3

  • Number of deaths: 13

  • Number of injuries: 17

  • Cost of damage: $6 billion

High winds and tornadoes in several states, including Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas, caused significant damage to personal property like homes and cars, as well as corporate and government buildings and infrastructure. 

3. Central tornado outbreak & Eastern severe weather

  • When: March 31 through April 1

  • Number of deaths: 33

  • Cost of damage: $5.7 billion

More than 145 tornadoes touched down across multiple states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, causing severe damage to homes, vehicles, agriculture, and infrastructure.

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4. Hawaii firestorm 

  • When: August 8

  • Number of deaths: 100

  • Cost of damage: $5.6 billion

Wildfires on the island of Maui in Hawaii destroyed the town of Lahaina, leaving 100 people dead and billions of dollars in property damage. Exacerbated by the winds from Hurricane Dora, this Hawaiian wildfire was the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century. 

5. Rockies hail storms & Central severe weather

  • When: June 21–26

  • Number of deaths: 100

  • Cost of damage: $5.3 billion

Sudden hail storms in Colorado caused significant property damage and injured 100 people at an outdoor concert. In addition to hail, the severe weather also caused dozens of tornadoes across multiple states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Wyoming.

6. California flooding

  • When: Dec. 26, 2022 through March 19, 2023

  • Deaths: At least 22

  • Cost of damage: $4.6 billion

An increased amount of precipitation, including both snowfall and rainfall, was helpful in filling the California water table after a drought season, but it came with severe flooding. The flooding caused property damage to both personal and commercial property, as well as government property and infrastructure.

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7. Southern severe weather

  • When: June 11–14

  • Deaths: 1

  • Cost of damage: $4.3 billion

Wind, hail, and tornadoes swept across multiple states in the South, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Several days of these severe storms caused significant damage to property across a large section of the United States. 

8. Central & Southern severe weather

  • When: June 15–18

  • Deaths: 5

  • Injuries: At least 120

  • Cost of damage: $3.8 billion

Severe weather, including more than 70 tornadoes, caused injuries, deaths, and property damage across seven states, including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. While most of the damage was centered in Oklahoma, there was damage to both commercial and personal property in more than half a dozen states.

9. Central & Eastern tornadoes & hail storms 

  • When: May 10–12

  • Deaths or injuries: 0 reported

  • Cost of damage: $3.5 billion

More than 90 tornadoes and severe hail storms caused severe property damage across multiple states, including Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas. While most of the damage caused by these storms was centered in Oklahoma, people and companies across multiple states experienced property damage, travel delays, and more.

10. Hurricane Idalia

  • When: August 29-31

  • Deaths: At least 10

  • Injuries: 2

  • Cost of damage: $3.5 billion

A Category 3 hurricane, Idalia made landfall in Florida with 125 mph winds and a storm surge of about 8 feet. The storm caused flash flooding, power outages, tornadoes, rip currents, and other significant weather-related issues in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. 

While the overall damage from Idalia was lessened because it made landfall in a relatively unpopulated portion of the state, Florida and other southern states still saw billions of dollars in damage to vehicles, homes, businesses, and other property along the southeast United States.

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Frequently asked questions

Are natural disasters covered by home insurance?

Some natural disasters are covered by home insurance, but not all of them. Wildfire, lightning strikes, tornadoes, and wind damage from hurricanes are covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. However, disasters like floods, sinkholes, and earthquakes are typically excluded. Check with your insurance company to verify what is (and isn’t) covered by your policy.

What is insurance for natural disasters called?

There are multiple terms that could be used for disaster insurance. Generally speaking, catastrophe insurance or disaster insurance are both terms to describe coverage included in your policy for natural disasters. You can also purchase insurance to cover one specific type of disaster, like flood insurance or windstorm coverage.

Which two types of natural disasters are not normally covered in a homeowners policy?

A standard home insurance policy does not cover damage caused by flooding or earthquakes.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of oureditorial standards.

  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration U.S. Department of Commerce

    . "

    U.S. struck with historic number of billion-dollar disasters in 2023

    ." Accessed January 24, 2024.

Author

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Editor

Jennifer Gimbel is a senior managing editor and home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our homeowners insurance coverage. Previously, she was the managing editor at Finder.com and a content strategist at Babble.com.

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