At times, 2011 has felt like a parade of natural disasters: Earthquakes and tornadoes and floods, oh my! But wait, there are more coming. Hurricane season has just begun.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June to November, is predicted to to be heavy, and it comes on the heels of a spring that brought the deadliest and strongest tornadoes on record in the United States. With the massive F5 that leveled a large swath of Joplin, Mo., on May 22 and took more than 135 lives, as well as the June twisters that caused a total of 322 deaths, the nation's weather-related damage for 2011 has already topped $3 billion from tornadoes alone.
Hurricanes tend to be more expensive, and in the past few years, we've been lucky to have avoided the worst storms.
The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration predicts about 18 named tropical storms will form this year, with six to 10 of them expected to reach hurricane status. Researchers at Colorado State University offer a complimentary analysis, suggesting that 2011 will see about 16 named storms, with five developing into major hurricanes. These numbers stand menacingly higher than the average North Atlantic season of 11 named storms and two hurricanes in the upper strength categories.
Even though a Category 4 or 5 hurricane can cause serious damage, it's not always the strongest hurricanes that leave the most devastation in their wake. In fact, out of the top 10 most expensive hurricanes on record, two were Category 2 and one, Agnes in 1972, was a Category 1. Hurricane Katrina was just a Category 3, and the areas it touched are still feeling the effects of its estimated $81 billion in property damage today. It was also one of the most lethal, with 1,836 deaths caused by the storm and the floods and chaos that followed.
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