Reuters

That's about a quarter the size of Oklahoma's state budget.

The mayor of Moore provided one of the first estimates of the total cost stemming from Monday's tornado: between $1.5 and $2 billion — a sum that's about a quarter the size of Oklahoma's state budget. If that total pans out, it would make the Moore tornado the third-most costly in American history.

That bit of data comes from Weather Underground's Jeff Masters, an expert on such details if there ever was one. In a post this afternoon, he compares the most expensive twisters in history, as best as is possible.

This morning, the Oklahoma Insurance Department said the preliminary tornado damage estimate could top $2 billion. This would make the 2013 Moore tornado the 2nd most expensive tornado in history (as ranked by NOAA/SPC) or 3rd most expensive (as ranked by insurance broker Aon Benfield.)

Only nine tornadoes have caused a billion dollars worth of damage (in 2013 dollars). They're below.

Most expensive tornadoesMost expensive tornadoes$1.5$1.5$2.25$2.25Joplin, MO, 2011Joplin, MO, 2011Tuscaloosa, AL, 2011Tuscaloosa, AL, 2011Moore, OK, 2013Moore, OK, 2013Topeka, KS, 1966Topeka, KS, 1966Lubbock, TX, 1970Lubbock, TX, 1970Bridge Creek-Moore, OK, 1999Bridge Creek-Moore, OK, 1999Hackleburg, AL, 2011Hackleburg, AL, 2011Xenia, OH, 1974Xenia, OH, 1974Omaha, NE, 1975Omaha, NE, 1975cost (billions)cost (billions)


Please note: Moore actually has two entries on the list. The sixth-most expensive tornado was the one that hit the city in 1999.

Yesterday, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma went to great pains to explain why he would support disaster funding for his state, when, earlier this year, he opposed such funding for Sandy victims. The Huffington Post notes his appearance on MSNBC:

[T]he lawmaker said that in the case of Hurricane Sandy, "everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place." However, he said, "that won't happen in Oklahoma." …

Inhofe said the Sandy Relief bill "was supposed to be in New Jersey," but "they were getting things … in the Virgin Islands, fixing roads there, and putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C." Both Inhofe and Coburn voted to slash aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, with Inhofe saying he considered the full proposed aid amount to be a "slush fund."

It's true that not every dime has been spent in New York and New Jersey. But those weren't the only two states damaged by the superstorm.

Or that the financial need is comparable. Using a February estimate for Sandy's total cost, we added it to the graph, as below.

Expensive weather eventsExpensive weather events$15$15$30$30$45$45Hurricane Sandy (2012)Hurricane Sandy (2012)Joplin, MO, 2011Joplin, MO, 2011Tuscaloosa, AL, 2011Tuscaloosa, AL, 2011Moore, OK, 2013Moore, OK, 2013Topeka, KS, 1966Topeka, KS, 1966Lubbock, TX, 1970Lubbock, TX, 1970Bridge Creek-Moore, OK, 1999Bridge Creek-Moore, OK, 1999Hackleburg, AL, 2011Hackleburg, AL, 2011Xenia, OH, 1974Xenia, OH, 1974Omaha, NE, 1975Omaha, NE, 1975cost (billions)cost (billions)


This massive cost differential is largely a function of population density. A storm that hits New York City will almost always be more costly than one that hits a primarily rural area — there are more buildings and more people and more infrastructure.

Each disaster has an enormous emotional cost and, God forbid, a human one. That cost is incomparable. It can't be captured in a graph.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic Wire, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Philip Bump
Philip Bump

Philip Bump is a former politics writer for The Atlantic Wire.

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