Facts + Statistics: Winter storms

Winter storms caused $1.1 billion in insured losses in 2020 in 2021 dollars, down from $2 billion in 2019, according to Aon. Winter storms include snow, ice, freezing and flooding. In the first half of 2021, winter storms caused a record $15.1 billion in insured losses, almost totally due to the February 12 to 22 winter storms that affected a large area of the United States, especially Texas, as detailed below.

From February 12 to 22, 2021, Texas became the center of significant winter weather that spread from Oregon and Washington state into the Plains, the Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. According to Aon’s July 29, 2021 report, a dome of Arctic air affected by the Polar Vortex caused a prolonged and historic stretch of abnormally cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills. Record low temperatures were reported in states from Minnesota as far south as Texas and Mississippi. Perils included heavy snowfall, freezing rain, ice and severe thunderstorms. On February 16 the lower 48 states had snow covering 73.2 percent of its landmass, the highest daily total since record-keeping began in 2003. Texas was the hardest-hit state with sub-freezing temperatures for close to seven consecutive days. The state suffered about 425,000 insurance claims as of June 8, 2021. Power outages lasted for days after the Texas power grid failed, leading to 210 deaths, most from subfreezing temperatures. Aon said that the state’s inadequately weatherized electrical grid, limited preparation for a severe winter weather event, and a lack of investment into infrastructure maintenance to handle increasingly volatile weather conditions contributed to the freeze. Texas is also experiencing a population boom that has been adding stress to the electrical grid during periods of high usage, whether from heat waves or cold snaps. The severity and length of the freeze caused many instances of burst pipes in residential and commercial properties, which along with the lengthy power outages, resulted in widespread damage. Aon estimates that when all claims are tallied, insured losses will be near $15 billion, making this event the most costly winter storm in U.S. history. Previously the March 1993 blizzard, which affected 24 states, held the record with $3.6 billion in damages in 2020 dollars. An earlier report from Karen Clark & Company estimated losses from the freeze at $18 billion. The final cost to the insurance industry will not be known until the end of 2021 at the earliest, as the price of lumber is impacting repairs, and business income interruption claims are still being processed.

U.S. Insured Losses from Winter Storms, 2011-2021

($ millions)

  Insured losses (1)
Year When occurred In 2021 dollars
2011 $2,928 $3,504
2012 589 684
2013 1,976 2,264
2014 3,470 3,935
2015 3,918 4,440
2016 1,178 1,319
2017 926 1,012
2018 3,726 3,977
2019 1,859 1,955
2020 1,056 1,087
2021-First half 15,060 15,060

(1) Includes losses sustained by private insurers and government-sponsored programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program. Subject to change as loss estimates are further developed.

Source: Aon.

Top 15 Costliest U.S. Winter Events By Insured Losses, 1980-2020 (1)

($ millions)

        Losses  
          Insured (2)  
Rank Date Event Location Overall When occurred In 2020
dollars (3)
Deaths
1 Mar. 11-14, 1993 Blizzard  AL, CT, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MS, NC,
NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WV
$5,000 $2,000 $3,609 270
2 Feb. 16-25, 2015 Winter storm, winter damage AR, CT, DC, DE, IL, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MS,
NC, NH, NJ,NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT
2,800 2,100 2,318 39
3 Dec. 17-30, 1983 Winter damage, cold wave FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI,
MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK,
OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV,
WI, WY
1,000 880 2,251 500
4 Apr. 13-17, 2007 Winter storm, tornado, floods CT, DE, GA, LA, MA, MD, ME, MS, NC, NH, NJ,
NY, PA, RI, SC, TX, VA, VT, WV
2,000 1,600 2,006 19
5 Jan. 5-8, 2014 Winter damage, cold wave  AL, CT, GA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO,
MS, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, WI
2,500 1,700 1,883 NA
6 Dec. 10-13, 1992 Winter storm CT, DE, NJ, NY, MA, MD, NE, PA, RI, VA 3,000 1,000 1,826 19
7 Mar. 1-3, 2018 Winter storm CT, DE, DC, MD, MA, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, VA 2,300 1,600 1,661 9
8 Mar. 13-15, 2010 Winter storm (Nor'Easter), floods CT, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI 1,700 1,200 1,429 11
9 Jan. 17-20, 1994 Winter damage, cold wave CT, DE, IN, IL, KY, MA, ME, MD, NC, NH, NJ, NY,
OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WV
1,000 800 1,418 70
10 Feb. 10-12, 1994 Winter damage AL, AR, GA, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA 3,000 800 1,413 9
11 Apr. 7-11, 2013 Winter storm CA, IN, KS, MO, NE, SD, WI 1,500 1,200 1,337 NA
12 Jan. 1-4, 1999 Winter storm AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, LA, MO, MA, MD,
ME, MS, NC, NJ, NY,OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX,
VA, WV
1,000 780 1,230 25
13 Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2011 Winter storm, snowstorms, winter damage CT, IA, IL, IN, KS, MA, ME, MO, NY, OH, PA, RI,
TX, WI
1,300 980 1,153 36
14 Jan. 4-9, 2008 Winter storm AR, CA, CO, IL, IN, KS, MI, MO, NY, OH, OK, OR,
WA, WI
1,000 750 921 12
15 Mar. 8-17, 2019 Winter storm, blizzard, flood NE, CO, TX, IO, KY, MI, NM, WI, MO, SD, ND 4,700 800 815 6

(1) Costliest U.S. blizzards and winter storms/damages based on insured losses when occurred, as of January 2021. Does not include the U.S. winter storm of February 2021.
(2) Based on property losses including, if applicable, agricultural, offshore, marine, aviation and National Flood Insurance Program losses in the United States and may differ from data shown elsewhere.
(3) Adjusted for inflation through 2020 by the Insurance Information Institute using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator.

NA=Data not available.

Source: ©2021 Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Insurance Information Institute.

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