Oklahoma Tornado and 7 Other Billion Dollar Natural Disasters

PHOTO: Carlos and Kim Caudillo stand in the debris of their home after a tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down on Monday killing at least 51 people.
Brett Deering/Getty Images

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.

PHOTO: The Star Jet roller coaster remains in the water after the Casion Pier it sat on collapsed from the forces of Superstorm Sandy, February 19, 2013 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Hurricane Sandy - October 2012

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.

PHOTO: A woman and her baby look out over a flooded street on August 31, 2011 in Wallington, New Jersey. New Jersey was especially hard hit by Hurricane Irene with thousands of residents forced into shelters due to flooded homes.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Hurricane Irene - August 2011

The storm that devastated parts of North Carolina and the mid-Atlantic coast cost at least $10 billion and killed at least 45 people.

PHOTO: Workers from Skaggs Chiropractic hold a group prayer outside their destroyed office after a massive tornado passed through the town killing at least 123 people on May 25, 2011 in Joplin, Missouri.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Joplin Tornado - May 2011

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.

PHOTO: A truck drives along a flooded highway on the Mississippi River on May 23, 2011 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Floodwaters are beginning to gradually recede in Vicksburg but are likely to remain above flood stage for weeks.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mississippi River Flooding - May 2011

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.

PHOTO: Brush and trees are engulfed in flames after firefighters set a backburn along Highway 191 in an attempt to control a raging wildfire on June 10, 2011 in Nutrioso, Arizona.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
New Mexico/Arizona Wildfires - Spring 2011

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.

PHOTO: A corn crop dries up in a field July 28, 2011 near Perryton, Texas. A severe drought has caused most dry-land (non-irrigated) crops in the area to fail and forced farmers to abandon some fields in order to conserve their limited resources.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Southwest Drought/Heat Wave - Spring/Summer 2011

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.

PHOTO: Daryl Thompson holds his 3-month old daughter Dejanae as they wait with other displaced residents on a highway in the hopes of catching a ride out of town August 31, 2005 in New Orleans.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina - August 2005

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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