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Weather and Climate

4 Oklahoma Weather Events On NOAA's List Of Billion-Dollar Disasters

A tornado struck the Best Value Inn on Southeast 44th Street and Interstate 35
Jacob McCleland
A tornado struck the Best Value Inn on Southeast 44th Street and Interstate 35

Four weather events that affected Oklahoma made the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s list of disasters that cost at least a $1 billion in 2015. 10 events, ranging from drought to record flooding resulted in damage costing more than 10 figures.

NPR’s Christopher Joyce reports the flooding, severe rainstorms, wildfires, and winter storms represented a wider variety of billion-dollar weather than usual:

Insurance companies are paying for most of the damage. Surprisingly, 2015 payouts were lower than the previous few years, though still high historically. That's mostly due to luck, says Mark Bove, a meteorologist at Munich Reinsurance America, a firm that insures insurance companies for their losses. No serious hurricanes hit the U.S. in 2015, he explains. But that luck is not likely to last, Bove says. Moreover, he is noticing a trend that has been going on for years and is likely to continue: "We seem to be seeing more extreme precipitation events," Bove says. "When it rains today, it seems to rain harder and heavier." But even as the rain gets more intense, Bove says, people don't seem to be taking notice. "We tend not to build buildings to withstand the storms that we already see," he says, "let alone how they might change in the future." That will mean higher costs in a future where weather becomes even less predictable.

Severe storms across Oklahoma and 11 other states between April 18 and 20 resulted in significant damage in Texas, caused by high winds and severe hail.

A few weeks later, a tornado outbreak across the Southern Plains resulted in costly damage across Texas and Oklahoma. A woman in southeast Oklahoma City died after authorities believe she drowned inside her storm shelter. Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 12 Oklahoma counties, and President Obama approved a federal disaster declaration.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, a slow-moving storm system dumped significant rainfall across Oklahoma and Texas. The Sooner State saw tornadoes and significant flooding. Six deaths were attributed to the storm.

And the winter storm that closed out 2015, dubbed “Goliath” by meteorologists, also caused unseasonably strong tornadoes throughout the DFW Metroplex, damaging more than 1,000 homes and businesses. 50 people died in the system that produced high wind, snow and ice from New Mexico through the Midwest and into New England.

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