A flooded highway in New Jersey (AP)The New York Times reported this week that Hurricane Irene may become one of the top 10 costliest disasters in American history, with insurers, individuals and the federal government paying between $7 billion and $10 billion to fix homes and businesses. The Times, which trumpeted the finding in the lead story on the front page of its print edition on Wednesday, was referring a report by Kinetic Analysis Corporation that said as much as 60 percent of the cost may not be covered by insurance companies. That means the Federal Emergency Management Agency and individuals will end up picking up much of that tab.
But will the cost of Hurricane Irene really surpass the price paid to recover from historical disasters like Galveston's 1900 hurricane and the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco? Together, both disasters took at least 13,000 lives, a huge number compared to the still tragic 45 deaths caused by Irene.
Maybe, because while the country has gotten better at preventing the loss of thousands of lives in a disaster, the evidence suggests they cost us more in damage now.
But cost is probably not the best way to measure a natural disaster's toll.Read More »from Is Hurricane Irene really one of the 10 most expensive disasters in American history?