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RMIIA
Catastrophe Information Quick Links
Think about the unthinkable...then you will be better prepared to financially survive it.
Carole Walker, RMIIA

Catastrophe Facts & Statistics

A catastrophe, as defined by the insurance industry, is a natural disaster that causes a certain dollar amount, currently set at $25 million in insured damage. Individual insurance companies may declare a "catastrophe" based on the anticipated loss to their policyholders in the impacted area. In most cases, that means they will set up special claims processing centers, establish 24-hour emergency hotlines and send in additional, specially trained claims adjusters to the scene of the catastrophe. These "catastrophe teams" generally arrive as soon as possible and stay as long as they are needed.

From 1993 to 2012, hurricanes and tropical storms made up 40.4% of total catastrophe losses, followed by tornado losses at 36%, winter storms at 7.1%, terrorism at 6.3%, earthquakes and other geologic events at 4.7%, wind/hail/flood at 3.8%, and fire at 1.7%. Civil disorders, water damage and utility services disruption combined represented less than 1%. Each year about 6% of homeowners file claims. Source: Insurance Information Institute

Flooding is the most common natural disaster; however, coverage for flood (defined as rising water) is excluded under most standard homeowners policies. For cars, flooding is covered under the comprehensive portion of most standard auto policies. Homeowners and renters who live in high-risk flood plains and whose communities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP (administered by the federal government), can buy special flood insurance through a company or agent.

Rocky Mountain Region Statistics

  • 2009 was Colorado's most costly severe weather season adding up to more than $1.4 billion in insured losses with one July storm ranking as the state's most expensive insured disaster in actual insurance claims paid out with insured losses totaling $767.6 million in claims ($833.5 million in 2013 dollars).

  • When adjusted for inflation, the July 11, 1990, hailstorm still tops the July 20, 2009, storm if compared in today's dollars. The 1990 storm resulted in $625 million in actual dollars paid out, but when adjusted for inflation, it totaled $1.1 billion in 2013 dollars.

  • The most expensive wildfire in Colorado state history was the June 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs with estimated insured losses totaling $453.7 million ($460.3 million in 2013 dollars) from 6,648 claims. Officials put the number of homes destroyed at 346. Insurance claims included smoke damage, additional living expenses, damaged and destroyed homes, as well as personal belongings and vehicles.
  • The most destructive wildfire in Colorado history is the June 2013 Black Forest Fire. Estimated insured losses totaled $420.5 million resulting from approximately 4,173 homeowner and auto insurance claims filed. El Paso County reports 488 structures burned in the blaze.
  • Windsor, Colorado experienced a tornado and hail storm in May 2008 causing an estimated $209.3 million in insured losses when adjusted for inflation.

  • The September 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire burned 169 homes and other personal property in the foothills just northwest of Boulder. Damage estimates totaled $217 million ($231.8 million in 2013 dollars) from insurance claims that included smoke damage, additional living expenses, damaged and destroyed homes, as well as personal belongings and vehicles.
  • The June 2012 High Park Fire near Fort Collins burned 259 homes, and based on the 1,293 insurance claims filed, the insurance costs are estimated at $113.7 million ($115.3 million in 2013 dollars).
  • The overall estimated cost of the 2002 Iron Mountain, Coal Seam, Missionary Ridge and Hayman Fires in Colorado is $70.3 million in insured losses ($91.0 million in 2013 dollars). Companies took in about 1,236 claims for the Hayman and Missionary Ridge Fires at an estimated cost of $56.4 million ($73.0 million in 2013 dollars).

  • In 2000, wildfire caused an estimated $140 million in insured losses to some 220 homes in Los Alamos, New Mexico ($189.3 million in 2013 dollars).

  • The blizzard of March 2003 was the most expensive winter storm from snow and ice damage in Colorado history. The estimated price tag was nearly $93.3 million ($118.1 million in 2013 dollars) from more than 28,000 claims filed.

  • In June of 1990, a tornado touched down in Limon, Colorado causing an estimated $20 million ($35.6 million in 2013 dollars) in insured damages.

  • A hailstorm in Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 5, 2004, caused about $39.7 million ($48.9 million in 2013 dollars) in insured losses.

  • May 10, 2005, Hobbs, New Mexico's hailstorm caused approximately $21 million ($25.0 million in 2013 dollars) in insured losses.

  • In June 2005, Lovington, New Mexico experienced $13.7 million ($16.3 million in 2013 dollars) in claims resulting from hail.

  • Colorado's most costly catastrophes have primarily been hail storms over the Denver-metro area (largest concentration of population and, therefore, property damage).

Most Costly Catastrophes in the Rocky Mountain Region (in order of cost)

Year Peril Insured Loss
($ Millions)
2013 Dollars
($ Millions)*
July 20, 2009 Hail and wind - Denver Metro $767.6 $833.5
July 1990 Hail - Colorado $625.0 $1.1 Billion
June 2012 Wildfire - Colorado Springs, Colorado $453.7 $460.3
June 2013 Wildfire - Black Forest, Colorado $420.5 $420.5
June 6-15, 2009 Tornado and hail - Denver Metro $353.3 $381.2
June 6-7, 2012 Hail - Colorado $321.1 $325.8
June 1984 Hail - Colorado $276.7 $620.3
July 29, 2009 Hail - Pueblo, Colorado $232.8 $252.7
October 1994 Hail - Colorado $225.0 $353.6
September 2010 Wildfire - Boulder, Colorado $217.0 $231.8
May 2008 Tornado and hail - Windsor, Colorado $193.5 $209.3
July 13, 2011 Hail - Colorado Front Range $164.8 $170.6
June 2004 Hail - Colorado $146.5 $180.6
May-June 2000 Los Alamos Fire - New Mexico $140.0 $189.3
August 1997 Hail - Colorado $128.0 $185.7
May 1996 Hail - Colorado $122.0 $181.1
July 11, 2011 Hail - Cheyenne, Wyoming $120.0 $124.2
June 2012 Wildfire - near Ft. Collins, Colorado $113.7 $115.3
June 1991 Hail - Colorado $100.0 $171.0
March 2003 Winter storm - Colorado $93.3 $118.1
October 1998 Hail - Colorado $87.8 $125.4
Summer 2002 Wildfires - Colorado $70.3 $91.0
August 2004 Hail - Colorado $62.2 $76.7
October 2004 Hail - Albuquerque, New Mexico $39.7 $48.9
May 2005 Hail - Hobbs, New Mexico $21.0 $25.0
June 1990 Tornado - Limon, Colorado $20.0 $35.6
June 2005 Hail - Lovington, New Mexico $13.7 $16.3

*2013 estimated costs calculated by the Insurance Information Institute according to the consumer price index.

Top Catastrophes in the Rocky Mountain Region (in order of occurrence)

Year Peril Insured Loss
($ Millions)
2013 Dollars
($ Millions)*
June 1984 Hail - Colorado $276.7 $620.3
June 1990 Tornado - Limon, Colorado $20.0 $35.6
July 1990 Hail - Colorado $625.0 $1.1 Billion
June 1991 Hail - Colorado $100.0 $171.0
October 1994 Hail - Colorado $225.0 $353.6
May 1996 Hail - Colorado $122.0 $181.1
August 1997 Hail - Colorado $128.0 $185.7
October 1998 Hail - Colorado $87.8 $125.4
May-June 2000 Los Alamos Fire - New Mexico $140.0 $189.3
Summer 2002 Wildfires - Colorado $70.3 $91.0
March 2003 Winter storm - Colorado $93.3 $118.1
June 2004 Hail - Colorado $146.5 $180.6
August 2004 Hail - Colorado $62.2 $76.7
October 2004 Hail - Albuquerque, New Mexico $39.7 $48.9
May 2005 Hail - Hobbs, New Mexico $21.0 $25.0
June 2005 Hail - Lovington New Mexico $13.7 $16.3
May 2008 Tornado and hail - Windsor, Colorado $193.5 $209.3
June 6-15, 2009 Tornado and hail - Denver Metro $353.3 $381.2
July 20, 2009 Hail and wind - Denver Metro $767.6 $833.5
July 29, 2009 Hail - Pueblo, Colorado $232.8 $252.7
September 2010 Wildfire - Boulder, Colorado $217.0 $231.8
July 11, 2011 Hail - Cheyenne, Wyoming $120.0 $124.2
July 13, 2011 Hail - Colorado Front Range $164.8 $170.6
June 6-7, 2012 Hail - Colorado Front Range $321.1 $325.8
June 2012 Wildfire - near Ft. Collins, Colorado $113.7 $115.3
June 2012 Wildfire - Colorado Springs, Colorado $453.7 $460.3
June 2013 Wildfire - Black Forest, Colorado $420.5 $420.5

*2013 estimated costs calculated by the Insurance Information Institute according to the consumer price index.

National Statistics

  • 2005 was the most costly year on record for the insurance industry, in terms of natural disasters. The year saw 27 named tropical storms, 15 of which were hurricanes.

  • Superstorm Sandy caused $18.8 billion in insured property losses ($19.0 in 2013 dollars), excluding flood insurance claims covered by the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It was the third costliest U.S. hurricane based on insured losses, topped only by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 ($49.0 billion in insured losses in 2013 dollars) and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 ($25.7 billion in insured losses in 2013 dollars).

  • The 1994 Northridge earthquake in California has been the most costly earthquake to date. It measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, resulting in 60 deaths, 12,000 injuries, and destroyed more than 8,000 homes.

  • Approximately 1,200 tornadoes strike the U.S. each year.

Ten Most Costly Catastrophes in the United States

Month/Year Peril Insured Loss
($ Billions)
2013 Dollars
($ Billions)
1. Aug. 2005 Hurricane Katrina $41.1* $49.0
2. Aug. 1992 Hurricane Andrew $15.5 $25.7
3. Sep. 2001 World Trade Center & Pentagon Terrorist Attacks $18.8 (property claims only) $24.7
4. Jan. 1994 Northridge, CA Earthquake $12.5 $19.6
5. Oct. 2012 Superstorm Sandy $18.8 $19.0
6. Sept. 2008 Hurricane Ike $12.5 $13.5
7. Oct. 2005 Hurricane Wilma $10.3 $12.3
8. Aug. 2004 Hurricane Charley $7.5 $9.2
9. Sep. 2004 Hurricane Ivan $7.1 $8.8
10. Apr. 2011 Flooding, hail and wind including tornadoes that struck Tuscaloosa and other locations $7.3 $7.6

*The National Flood Insurance Program paid $15.6 billion in Katrina claims, in addition to the $41.1 billion paid by private insurers.

Sources: Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) & Insurance Information Institute

U.S. Catastrophe Record 2001 - 2012

The following chart shows the number of catastrophes causing insured property losses of at least $25 million.

Year Number of Catastrophes Claims ($ Millions) Insured Losses ($ Billions) 2013 Dollars ($ Billions)
2001 20 1.6 $26.5 $34.9
2002 25 1.8 $5.9 $7.6
2003 21 2.6 $12.9 $16.3
2004 22 3.4 $27.5 $33.9
2005 24 4.0 $62.3 $74.3
2006 33 2.3 $9.2 $10.6
2007 23 1.2 $6.7 $7.5
2008 37 3.9 $27.0 $29.2
2009 28 2.2 $10.5 $11.4
2010 33 2.4 $14.1 $15.1
2011 30 4.9 $33.6 $34.8
2012 26 4.0 $35.0 $35.5

Sources: Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) & Insurance Information Institute

What To Do in a Catastrophe

Residents evacuated from their homes should contact their insurance agents or companies immediately and let them know where they can be reached. As adjusters are allowed into impacted areas, they will want to go in with their policyholders to access the extent of the damage. In the event of a catastrophe situation, many insurance companies set up 24-hour emergency hotlines.

Company claims adjusters, many equipped with laptop computers and portable phones, will start writing checks to pay the cost of temporary living expenses for people left homeless by catastrophes and to begin the rebuilding of damaged homes. Some companies will open special claims centers to assist their policyholders. Contact your agent or company if you need additional living expenses while you are out of your home.

Keep receipts.
Out-of-pocket expenses during a mandatory evacuation are reimbursable under most standard homeowner policies.

Be prepared to give your agent or insurance representative a description of your damage.
Your agent will report the loss immediately to your insurance company or a qualified adjuster who will contact you as soon as possible to inspect the damage. Again, be sure to give your agent a number where you can be reached.

Take photos of the damaged areas.
These will help with your claims process and will assist the adjuster in the investigation.

Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property.
Be sure to make two copies-one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost.

Make whatever temporary repairs you can.
Cover broken windows, damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save receipts for supplies and materials you purchase. Your company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.

Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home from a reputable contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.

Serious losses will be given priority.
If your home has been destroyed or seriously damaged, your agent will do everything possible to ensure that you are given priority.

Disaster Planning

Do you know what to do in the event of a disaster? Are you ready if a fire, flood, or tornado strikes your home? It may not be fun to think about, but it never hurts to plan ahead - especially if you live in a disaster-prone area. Know where you should go, who you should notify, and what to bring. A great resource for disaster-planning is FEMA's "Are You Ready?" It walks you through steps you and your family can take so that you are better prepared should a disaster strike.

Additional Information