Texas has the most billion-dollar disasters nationwide

The Smokehouse Creek fire in Hutchinson County was the largest wildfire in Texas history. Extreme weather conditions produced dry grass, warm temperatures and high winds that combined to create a fast-moving inferno that proved difficult to contain and burned for over three weeks. Two people died, hundreds of ranches, farms, and homes burned, thousands of cattle were killed, and over one million acres burned. This tragic event further highlights how vulnerable Texans have become to extreme weather events.

What are billion-dollar weather events?

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) collects national meteorology data to monitor weather events and their costs over time. To get a better understanding of the economic and societal impact from weather disasters, the NCEI calculates the number of billion-dollar events while adjusting for inflation in the U.S. each year. To do this, the NCEI uses both public and private data sources to account for total, direct losses of assets that are both insured and uninsured.

Billion dollar disaster blog NOAA image
Source: NOAA

By using a variety of U.S. agency data sources such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the NCEI can quantify the number of assets lost such as physical damage to buildings, material losses, time lost for residential and commercial facilities, energy platforms, damage to public infrastructure, agricultural/forestry losses, disaster restoration, and wildfire suppression costs. However, all estimates should be seen as conservative since not all losses are accounted for.

Number of severe weather events

According to data by the NCEI, the frequency and cost of billion-dollar climate events have increased nationwide since 1980. In the last 44 years, the U.S. has experienced 377 weather and climate disasters, with total costs exceeding $2.66 trillion.

NOAA Billion Dollar Disaster map
Source: NOAA

Texas leads the nation in both the most frequent severe weather events and the most expensive, accounting for 15% of all U.S. billion-dollar disasters. From 1980-2024, Texas experienced 171 billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events. Compared to its closest rival, Louisiana, Texas had 77% more billion-dollar weather events. Comparatively since 1980, Louisiana had 97 severe weather events and Florida was third with 84.

When viewing all of the severe weather events that have occurred in Texas between 1980 and 2023, there is an increasing trend in the overall number of disasters, especially in the last decade. Between 2020-2023, there were more than three times the number of billion-dollar weather events than those occurring in the 1980s (2020-2023: 48 vs 1980-1989: 14). The three years with the most billion-dollar events in Texas were in 2023, 2021, and 2019, respectively.

A breakdown of the types of severe weather events by category reveals Texas is affected the most by severe storms, drought, and cyclones. Out of the total 171 billion-dollar disasters in Texas, there were 111 severe storms (64.9%), 19 droughts and heat waves (11.1%), 14 tropical cyclones, (8.2%), 10 winter storms (5.8%), 9 floods (5.3%), 7 wildfires (4.1%), and 1 freeze (0.6%).

Most expensive severe weather events in Texas

Severe Weather Type Number Weather Events Cost in Millions (CPI-Adjusted) Cost per Severe Weather Event (in millions CPI-Adjusted)
Tropical Cyclone 14 $234,028.5 $16,716.32
Severe Storm 110 $82,230.3 $747.54
Drought and Heat-Waves  19 $41,633.7 $2,191.25
Winter Storm 10 $25,350.1 $2,535.01
Flooding 9 $14,898.6 $1,655.40
Wildfire 7 $3,077.9 $439.7
Freeze 1 $549.5 $549.5

Note: Consumer Price Index adjusted to 2022

Among all severe weather events in Texas, the most expensive were the 14 tropical cyclones or hurricanes, costing the state over $234 billion (Consumer Price Index (CPI)-adjusted to 2022 for inflation). In second and third place were severe storms at $82 billion and drought and heat waves at $41 billion. Tropical cyclones or hurricanes are not just the most expensive because they are the most frequent; they are expensive each time they occur. Drought and heat waves and winter storms are the second and third most expensive per severe weather event, costing between $2.2 billion and $2.5 billion every time they materialize.

Extreme Weather Patterns in Texas

Severe storms were most common in spring months such as April, May, March, and June (in order of frequency). Droughts and heat-wave events dominated summer and fall seasons such as July, August, September, October, and November. However, droughts and heat waves were not exclusive to hot months. Droughts affect Texas every month, regardless of season. Flooding occurred between March and June and also in October. Winter storms only occurred in December through March. Unsurprisingly, wildfires occurred most frequently in the months where droughts and heat waves were the highest: June through November.

Note: The height of the bars indicate higher frequency whereas the colors represent the categories of weather patterns. The Y axis indicates the cumulative number of events (all weather categories) by month. Graph indicates all cumulative severe weather events since 1980.

Texas’ deadliest disasters

Disasters also have a devastating social cost to the state. Droughts and heat waves are not the most expensive or frequent billion-dollar disaster, but they are the most deadly. Between 1980-2023, Texas had 7,160 cumulative fatalities from severe weather events. Droughts and heat waves claimed over 50% of all deaths related to climate events, or 3,625 lives. Deaths associated with droughts are the result of heat waves and heat stress. In contrast, tropical cyclones — which are the most frequent and most costly weather events in Texas — only accounted for 6.5% of all weather fatalities.

Severe Weather Type Number of Fatalities Percentage of all Billion-Dollar Weather Events
Drought and Heat-Waves  3,625 50.6%
Severe Storms 1,493 20.9%
Winter Storms 1,211 16.9%
Tropical Cyclones 465 6.5%
Freeze 151 2.1%
Flooding 136 1.9%
Wildfire 79 1.1%


An analysis of NCEI data shows that Texas has not just the highest number of billion-dollar weather events, but we also have the most expensive. The biggest threats to Texas are severe storms, cyclones/hurricanes, and droughts/heat waves in terms of frequency, cost and loss of life.

While severe storms occur primarily in the first half of the year, and cyclones or hurricanes occur in the middle to late part of the year, droughts dominate the second half of the year. Droughts are also the most deadly billion-dollar weather event in Texas. Since 1980, almost 4,000 people have lost their lives because of a drought or heat wave.

One conclusion from the anticipated release of the Assessment of Historic and Future Trends of Extreme Weather in Texas, 1900-2036 by the Texas State Climatologist, is that an increase in severe weather events are expected over the next decade. Texas can use this information as an opportunity to prepare for future catastrophic events. Texans should take the necessary steps to be prepared for severe weather events.

More information

The Texas 2036 Strategic Framework monitors severe weather across Texas and the U.S. by tracking the number of disasters worth over a billion dollars. Stay tuned for the highly-anticipated release of the state climatologist’s report on trends in extreme weather events. To preview some takeaways from the 2024 Extreme Weather in Texas, 1900-2036 report click here. For more information on Texas2036, follow us on X.

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