Irene was the US’s 10th Billion-Dollar Disaster This Year

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/6085588376/sizes/m/in/photostream/">NASA Goddard Photo and Video</a>/Flickr


While many along the East Coast have complained that Hurricane Irene was overhyped, the storm caused billions of dollars in damage—and has still left many communities dealing with its impacts. The storm ranks as the tenth billion-dollar disaster in the US in 2011, a new record.

Irene is projected to cost the US up to $13 billion, and comes at the end of a summer filled with heat waves, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires. Previous weather events had already racked up $32 billion in costs. In short, it’s been a disastrous year when it comes to disasters.

Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) upset quite a few people with the statement that increased spending on disaster aid should be contingent on other spending cuts. But the fact remains that this exceptionally expensive year is going to require Congress to give more money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to keep it running. FEMA was already short on cash before Irene, and the year’s not over.

Over at the Daily Beast, Heidi Cullen, the senior research scientist with Climate Central, puts Irene and this year’s other disasters into the broader context. Weather events are getting more extreme, and much more expensive, thanks to global warming:

Our weather is getting worse, and not saying it won’t make it go away. According to Munich Reinsurance America, one of the top providers of property and casualty reinsurance in the U.S., the number of natural disasters has tripled over the past 20 years. Average thunderstorm losses have increased five-fold since 1980. For the first half of 2011 there have been $20 billion in thunderstorm losses, up from the previous three-year average of $10 billion. The reinsurance company has also gone on the record saying, “It would seem that the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.”

Just don’t expect hear anything about it from the budget hawks in Congress.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate