Flood and Flood Insurance Statistics
Like all natural disasters, floods can disrupt lives and cause considerable damage to an individual’s assets and finances.
Floods occur more frequently than other natural disasters in the U.S. We will take a look at the statistics around floods in the U.S. using information from the National Weather Service, National Center for Environmental Information and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, specifically looking at the human and economic impact of floods every year.
Number of Flood Disasters in the US
Floods are the most common natural disasters in the U.S. However, flood statistics show that some are more costly than others. Sometimes, a single flood event can cost over a billion dollars. Since 1980, there have been 37 billion-dollar flood events.
The Kentucky and Missouri flooding from July 26 to 28 has been the only billion-dollar flood event in 2022. That’s a considerable change in flood statistics considering the last four decades.
Before the 2000s, numbers were low. Most decades, such as the 1980s and 1990s, experienced less than 10 floods. However, there was a sudden 350% jump from the 2000s to the 2010s.
There were only four billion-dollar recorded incidents from 2000 to 2009. However, this figure shot up to 18 in the next decade. The following events occurred between 2010 and 2019:
In 2019, there were only three billion-dollar incidents recorded. Fortunately, that number decreased further to two in 2021 and one (so far) in 2022.
Floods, just like any other natural disaster, often have casualties. Between 2010 and 2021, 104 people died in floods, on average, per year. Not all fatalities result from billion-dollar flood events. For example, no billion-dollar incidents were recorded in 2020, but there were 59 casualties.
Source: National Weather Service
The number of flood-related deaths has fluctuated over the years. Between 2010 and 2021, the three years with the highest counts were as follows:
- 2015: 189 deaths
- 2017: 180 deaths
- 2021: 145 deaths
After 2017, flood-related fatalities were on a downward trend as the next three years had below-average numbers. However, there was a 146% increase from 2020 to 2021.
If you break down the fatalities by area, Texas had the highest count in 2015. It coincides with Tropical Storm Bill, which made landfall on Matagorda Island and caused heavy rainfall, flooding and a storm surge from June 16 to 18.
Most Frequently Flooded States
Flood statistics tell us that floods happen in all regions. However, they occur more frequently in some areas than others, especially billion-dollar incidents. MoneyGeek's heat map reflects this — those with darker colors experienced more floods in the last 21 years, while those in lighter shades had fewer.
Keep in mind that these four states share borders. The National Weather Service highlights notable floods in each of these states during the last two decades:
- StateNotable Floods
- May 8–10, 1995
- Hurricane Katrina (August–September 2005)
- Mississippi River Flood (April–May 2011)
- Albert Pike Flooding (June 11, 2010)
- Texas Floods of 1998
- Tropical Storm Allison (June 5–8, 2001)
- South Central Texas Floods (June 30–July 7, 2002)
- December 1–6, 1982
- October 4–6, 1998
- April–June 2011
Seven states and the District of Columbia have no recorded billion-dollar flooding incidents. These seven states are Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont and Wyoming.
Note that smaller flood events that did not cause billion-dollar damage may have occurred but were not recorded.
The Economic Impact of Flood Catastrophes
Flood damage isn't limited to the destruction of property and the loss of lives. It also impacts the economy significantly. Considering only billion-dollar flood events between 1980 to 2021, the flood costs reached a total of $173.7 billion.
The cost of billion-dollar flood events since 1980 has fluctuated throughout the years. From 1980 to 1989 and 2000 to 2009, figures were below $20 billion. Each decade had four major flood events.
However, costs rose astronomically to over $68 billion during the following decades:
- 1990–1999: $68.10 billion
- 2010–2019: $68.80 billion
For the latter, you can attribute it to the number of flood events because there were 18. The five most costly floods during the decade of 2010 to 2019 were as follows:
- Missouri River and North Central Flooding: $12.4 billion
- Louisiana Flooding: $12.3 billion
- Mississippi River, Midwest and Southern Flooding: $7.1 billion
- Mississippi River Flooding: $4 billion
- Arkansas River Flooding: $3.4 billion
While you can correlate the cost and the number of floods from 2010 to 2019, you can't say the same for the economic impact in the former decade. From 1990 to 1999, the cost reached $68.10 billion, but there were only eight floods. In this decade, the Midwest Flooding in the summer of 1993 was the most destructive at $43 billion in damages.
Private Flood Insurance
Although you can't eliminate the possibility of experiencing a flood, there are ways to lessen its impact on your finances. Consider flood insurance, which you can purchase from the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer.
The net premiums written by private flood insurance companies can give you a better idea of how flood events have affected the economy.
Source: Insurance Information Institute
“Net premiums written” refers to the portion of premiums an insurance company keeps for assuming risk. By looking at these net premiums, you may determine the health of that company.
The net premiums written by insurance companies increased steadily from 2016 to 2018, reaching a record high of over $540 million. An increase in net premiums written signifies that insurers issued more new policies.
In 2019, net premiums written decreased by around 47%. It wasn't until 2021 that they increased by about 68%. In 2020, they were at $302 million but rose to almost $507 million in 2021.
Remember that these figures only include net premiums written by private flood insurance companies. Not everyone purchases flood coverage from private insurers. The National Flood Insurance Program is an excellent alternative to purchasing from a private company. It provides flood protection to homeowners, renters and businesses.
Floods are the most common natural disasters in the U.S., so having coverage is essential. A flood insurance policy can help you cover expenses from flood damages. It's particularly crucial if you live in an area prone to floods. Even if you don't, having flood insurance is always a good idea since floods occur in all states and regions.
Understanding Flood Catastrophes
It's crucial to understand that floods come in different forms, but all can be damaging and costly. From 2010 to 2021, 20 floods were billion-dollar events, costing an average of $3.6 billion per event.
Unfortunately, floods are likely to occur in all states and territories, which adds to their severity. Damage may include the loss of cars, houses and other assets. For this reason, flood insurance is essential for repairing the damage and maintaining financial health.
The Main Causes of Flooding
Spring brings warmth and new life. However, snow and ice begin melting as the temperature rises. The ground is usually frozen, making it unable to absorb the water. The water makes its way to rivers, lakes and streams. Unfortunately, this excess water runs over their banks, causing a flood.
Hurricanes often bring strong winds and torrential rains, which cause streams, rivers and lakes to overflow, resulting in flooding in inland areas. However, those who live near the coast are in danger of storm surges, which occur when hurricanes push ocean water toward land.
The main difference between hurricanes and tropical storms is their windspeed, with the latter ranging from 39 to 73 mph. However, you'll still experience intense rainfall, even without whipping winds. These cause the water level of streams, lakes and rivers to rise until they begin to overflow, resulting in flooding.
When the rainy season begins, flooding typically follows. Extreme rainfall affects several things. First, bodies of water begin to overflow. Second, once the ground is saturated, it can no longer absorb water.
Those living near the coast face different challenges, particularly between November to April, when the West Coast experiences the rainy season. Floods and mudslides are more likely to occur because of heavy rains and snowmelt.
Levees & Dams
Levees and dams are built to control flooding in some areas. But over time, they undergo wear and tear. Eventually, they can erode and succumb to water's pressure. Major floods can also overtake their walls.
Densely populated areas are more likely to experience flash floods because structures like buildings, parking lots and highways affect the ground's capacity to absorb the water. Flash floods also fill creeks and streambeds that are usually dry.
Types of Floods
Understanding flooding in the U.S. goes beyond its causes. It also helps to know flood types. The location typically establishes the flood type and can help determine to which type you’re susceptible.
You can still experience a flood even if it hasn't rained in your area. You’re particularly susceptible if you live near a river. Fluvial flooding, another name for river flooding, happens when rivers overflow from excessive water from sites upstream. Snowmelt is another common cause of river floods. Once the water hits the surrounding land, it can destroy houses, kill livestock or cause flash floods.
If you live in a coastal area, be wary of coastal floods due to the higher-than-average high tide. Heavy rainfall and onshore winds can also increase the likelihood of coastal floods. Onshore winds make coastal floods more probable because they push seawater inland.
Coastal floods can lead to road closures, affecting businesses around the area. Structures repeatedly exposed to saltwater can deteriorate, and the community's drinking water may be contaminated.
A severe weather condition, like a hurricane, brings a storm surge. Its waves, winds and low atmospheric pressure causes a significant rise in the water level.
Damages by storm surges are typically worse. Communities, like coastal areas, can experience considerable property loss to buildings, bridges, roads and pipelines. Storm surges can also cause irreparable environmental damage, such as beach erosions and the destruction of coastal habitats.
As its name implies, inland flooding takes place in an area away from the coast. However, it may be an offshoot of a coastal flood, but heavy rains over a prolonged period may also cause it. Overflowing rivers and lakes and the dam and levee breakage may also trigger inland flooding.
Inland flooding results from excessive water when natural and established drainage systems cannot manage it. With inland flooding, you may be exposed to contaminated floodwater, and structures may have to shut down, disrupting the area’s electricity, transportation and communication.
A flash flood is a phenomenon that happens when a low-lying area floods within six hours or less of heavy rainfall. With flash floods, you're dealing with high-level, fast-moving water through city streets, a riverbed or mountain canyons. However, areas ravaged by wildfires are especially prone to it.
Because of the water's speed, flash floods can carry away vehicles, roll out boulders or rip out trees. Flash floods typically cause the most fatalities because water levels can reach 30 feet or higher, and warnings might not come early enough.
Although flooding in the U.S. happens in all states and territories, some areas are more prone to it than others. These more affected areas include:
- Densely Populated Areas
- Low Ground Spots (underpasses, underground parking garages, basements and the like)
- Areas Near Rivers and Streams
- Recent Burn Areas in Mountains
Knowing where floods are more likely to occur can be an advantage. Although you can't predict when they'll happen, you can take precautions. For example, some homeowners think their insurance policy can help them with damages without realizing that standard homeowners insurance doesn't usually cover flood damage.
Flood Statistics FAQ
There's more to floods than meets the eye. Although most people know they can damage property, they sometimes don't understand the extent and ways to mitigate risk. Here are the most commonly asked questions about flooding in the U.S.
Expert Insights on Flood Statistics
A good understanding of flood statistics involves seeing how this natural disaster affects the individual. MoneyGeek sought the insights of subject-matter experts. They shared their thoughts about the effects of floods and how you can best protect yourself, loved ones and assets.
- How can floods impact the average American’s finances?
- Considering how common floods in the U.S. are, what advice can you give consumers to minimize this natural disaster’s impact on their lives and finances?
Founder of EaaS Consulting
Personal Insurance Advisor at Overmyer Hall Associates
CFO of LifePart2
Flooding in the U.S. is more common than you might think. It also correlates with your financial health. Fortunately, there are more than enough resources online to help you feel equipped to respond and recover during the aftermath.
- How to Prevent Floods from Damaging Your Home: You might not be able to avoid a flood altogether, especially if you live in a more prone area. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the potential damage. MoneyGeek’s page shows you how.
- Does Renters Insurance Cover Floods? Homeowners aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about floods. Even if you’re renting and have renters insurance, it’s best to know whether or not your policy considers a flood a covered peril.
- U.S. Catastrophes: Facts, Trends and Impact: Floods aren’t the only natural disaster you might experience in the U.S. MoneyGeek identifies other types and how these have affected the U.S. economy.
- Financial Preparedness and Recovery from a Natural Disaster: Surviving a natural disaster is one thing. Taking steps to recover from the damages you sustained is another. MoneyGeek’s guide focuses on how a natural disaster can impact your finances and how to move forward.
- From Evacuation Plans to Insurance Coverage: Emergency Preparedness for Seniors: With senior fixed incomes, recovering from a natural disaster may be more challenging. A plan for emergencies can help seniors avoid unnecessary costs and maintain financial wellness.
About the Author
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