Published: May 18, 1999

From "Disasters By Design: A Reassessment Of Natural Hazards In The United States"

During the 1975-1994 study period:

• Eighty percent of all natural hazards were climatological, including droughts and dust storms, extreme cold, floods, fog, hail, heat, hurricanes and tropical storms, ice, sleet, snow, lightning, snow avalanches, tornadoes, wind and wildfires.

• Ten percent of natural hazards were due to geophysical hazards, including earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and volcanoes.

• Only 17 percent of natural hazards losses were insured.

• Floods were the most costly natural hazard in terms of death and dollar amount of damage to property and crops. During the 20-year study period, floods accounted for 1,600 deaths and tens of billions of dollars in property losses.

• Heat and fog are underestimated forces and can be surprisingly costly to human life. Deaths because of fog are primarily due to motor vehicle accidents, and may have contributed to more than 6,000 fatalities during the study period. Heat claimed 570 lives in 1980 and caused tens of millions of dollars in crop damage.

• The United States has more tornadoes than any country in the world.

• The 1994 Northridge earthquake in California was the most costly natural disaster in the nation's history, estimated to cost at least $25 billion.

• The 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan was the costliest disaster in the history of the world at a cost of more than $100 billion. Kobe had been considered well prepared to withstand a big earthquake before the 7.2 magnitude quake struck.

• Until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California, the insurance industry had never experienced a loss greater than $1 billion from a single natural hazards event. By 1994, there were an additional 15 disasters exceeding $1 billion in insured losses.

• Seven of the 10 most costly U.S. disasters during the 20-year study period occurred between 1989 and 1994. However, none of these events was considered to be "catastrophic" in magnitude.