10 Costliest Catastrophes in the U.S.

Catastrophes destroy homes and vehicles, displace families and interrupt business.

Catastrophes destroy homes and vehicles, displace families and interrupt business. The question is, who pays?

With the 2012 hurricane season in full swing, residents of the East and Gulf coasts are reminded yet again that disaster can strike with little warning. Having the right insurance is important. If an event similar to the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 were to strike today, it would result in insured losses of $125 billion, estimates Karen Clark & Co., a risk-management firm, due to the greater concentration of people and property in coastal areas. Back then, however, few carried insurance.

But Americans seem to have learned their lesson. Our ranking of the ten costliest catastrophes to hit the U.S. based on insured losses is dominated entirely by events of the past two decades. Even a relatively recent catastrophe, such as 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, would be three times as costly today.

With each event, you'll find our guidance on how to best protect yourself against similar losses. Data on initial insured losses was provided by ISO's Property Claims Services unit, which helps assess risk for the insurance industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI Inflation Calculator was used to determine losses in 2012 dollars.

Michael DeSenne
Executive Editor, Kiplinger.com
DeSenne made the leap to online financial journalism in 1998, just in time for the dot-com boom. After a stint with Dow Jones Newswires, dreams of IPO riches led him to SmartMoney.com, where over nine years he held several positions, including executive editor. He later served as the personal finance editor at HouseLogic.com and AARP.org. In 2011, he joined Kiplinger.com, where he focuses on content strategy, video, SEO and Web analytics. DeSenne has a BA from Williams College in Anthropology—a major deemed the absolute worst for career success by none other than Kiplinger.