Oklahoma Tornado and 7 Other Billion Dollar Natural Disasters

Here are seven U.S. natural disasters that each cost at least a billion dollars.

May 21, 2013— -- intro: The tornadoes that struck the Midwest this week, killing dozens and destroying hundreds of homes and schools in the Oklahoma City-suburb of Moore, likely caused more than $1 billion in damages.

And it's not just tornadoes that wreak this kind of havoc. From wildfires to hurricanes, the country has suffered dozens of natural disasters that have left billions of dollars of damage in their wake.

Some people also argue they're fueled by climate change. And that assertion deserves serious consideration. When it comes to something like wildfires, the connection is pretty clear. But that's not the case with all natural disasters. Scientists, for example, have found few links between tornadoes and climate change.

According to a post on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory, "[W]e have not been able to link any of the major causes of the tornado outbreak to global warming."

But global warming, caused in part by the emission of greenhouse gasses from things like cars and factories, has led to more unpredictable weather, meaning people have less time to prepare for disasters. That can, and often does, cost lives and money.

The Brookings Institution noted in a 2012 review of natural disasters that, "Given the fact that climate change is making weather more unpredictable and increasing the likelihood of extreme events, efforts are urgently needed to prevent natural hazards such as hurricanes and tropical storms from becoming major disasters."

The federal government built up disaster response measures following Katrina's devastation, but that doesn't prevent such events from striking. Reducing greenhouse gases would likely help, but sometimes these things are simply unavoidable.

Here's a look at seven of the most recent well-known U.S. natural disasters that cost at least a billion dollars.

quicklist: 1title: Hurricane Sandy - October 2012text: The storm that destroyed beachside communities along the Eastern Seaboard killed more than 130 people and cost between $20 and $50 billion dollars, according to a Brookings estimate. No hurricane on record has been wider in terms of geographic scope.

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quicklist: 2title: Hurricane Irene - August 2011 text: The storm that devastated parts of North Carolina and the mid-Atlantic coast cost at least $10 billion and killed at least 45 people.

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quicklist: 3title: Joplin Tornado - May 2011 text: NOAA rates the Joplin tornado as the single most deadly tornado since modern record keeping began. It killed about 160 people. That tornado, along with other tornados that struck at the same time across the central and southern states, cost at least $9 billion.

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quicklist: 4title: Mississippi River Flooding - May 2011 text: Higher-than-normal rainfall combined with melting snowpack resulted in deadly flooding that destroyed crops and homes from Arkansas to Missouri. The flooding cost $3 billion and killed at least seven people.

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quicklist: 5title: New Mexico/Arizona Wildfires - Spring 2011 text: Wildfires raged across the states and scorched hundreds of thousands of acres of earth. At least five people lost their lives to the fires, which cost at least $1 billion.

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quicklist:6title: Southwest Drought/Heat Wave - Spring/Summer 2011 text: Extended drought conditions and unwavering heat destroyed crops across the southern states. A majority of range and pastures in Texas and Oklahoma were classified "very poor" during much of that year's growing season. Nearly 100 people died as a result of the drought and heat. The total cost was about $12 billion.

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quicklist:7title: Hurricane Katrina - August 2005 text: The country's most costly natural disaster destroyed parts of New Orleans after the levee system there failed, and left thousands of people without a place to stay for months. The hurricane cost at least $125 billion and killed more than 1,800 people.

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