Hurricane Isaac Causes Billions in Damage, But Far Less Than Katrina

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Joshua Barbot rescues a family from their flooded home in his boat in Slidell, La. The economic losses due to Hurricane Isaac are estimated in the billions.

After stalling for days over Louisiana and Mississippi, it’s estimated that Hurricane Isaac could cause up to $2 billion in onshore economic damage.

When Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans seven years ago, it left a path of destruction totaling $42 billion in insurable claims. But while flooding has been extensive throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, the damage is much less this time around.

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According to Reuters and CNNMoney, disaster modeler Eqecat is predicting somewhere between $500 million and $1.5 billion in insured losses, which would include residential and commercial property, energy production onshore and interruptions to business. That doesn’t include flooding because many properties are actually insured against flood damage by the federal government. Others predict upwards of $2 billion. Offshore, the energy industry is expected to lose $500 million to $1 billion.

However, the estimates are still early, and if anything, they’re likely to rise. But so far, the losses are predicted to be much less than Katrina and Hurricane Irene (about $5 billion in insurable claims) or Hurricane Gustav, a Category 2 storm when it made landfall, in 2008 ($4 billion).

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So far, an estimated 700,000 residents have lost power in Louisiana and 150,000 were out of power in Mississippi after the Category 1 storm slowly passed over the region. Several levees in New Orleans were overtopped but for the most part held up as Isaac pounded the area with 9 to 12 inches of rain. The slow-moving storm, which is now a tropical depression, moved at about 10 m.p.h., exacerbating the flooding.

As Isaac moves inland toward the drought-stricken Midwest, a region that’s dealing with its own economic losses from too little water, the storm is likely too late to do much to alleviate the area’s agricultural problems.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has classified more than half of the nation’s corn crop as either in “very poor” or “poor shape” while close to 40% of the soybean crop is very poor or poor. However, the rain could help soybeans because they won’t be harvested until later in the year. That’s at least one hopeful economic sign from an otherwise devastating storm.

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