NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — According to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), severe climate events caused nearly $4 billion in damage across Tennessee in 2020.
The total includes damages from the March 2020 tornadoes, which did $2.5 billion in damage and was listed as one of 22 "Billion Dollar Disasters" in 2020.
The string of tornadoes was the largest weather event in Tennessee last year and it was joined by other events, like a derecho that brought strong, straight-line winds to Middle Tennessee in April, and a tornado that hit the Chattanooga area. The $4 billion in damage was the second highest total for Tennessee since NOAA started keeping track of the data in 1980. The only year with a higher total was 2011.
"We had a very active season from the very beginning of the year, and with a tornado impacting the Nashville Metro area, it was bound to be a very expensive year," National Weather Service Meteorologist Brittney Whithead said, adding that Tennessee is uniquely at risk for extreme climate events.
"The Southeast in general, and especially Tennessee, is vulnerable to pretty much any kind of weather event," Whithead said.
According to the data, those events are becoming more expensive.
"The damage and cost of disasters is increasing just due to the vulnerability of populations; as we spread out we build more," Whithead said.
At the same time, climate change is making severe storms more common.
"Climate change is increasing the frequency of some of those extreme events that would lead to these billion dollar types of damages," Whithead said.