Nearly 5 million people live in Louisiana. Many of these people have experienced natural disasters in the state firsthand or had to evacuate because of disasters. However, many Louisiana residents don’t realize just how many types of natural disasters can occur in the state.

This analysis covers what natural disasters occur in Louisiana, the worst natural disasters to hit the state since 2000, and what residents can do to prepare.

Is Louisiana At Risk of Natural Disasters?

Louisiana has a medium risk of natural disasters compared to the rest of the United States. Excluding COVID, Louisiana has had 54 disaster declarations since 2000. Of these, 33 were declared major disasters. 

Louisiana is also frequently hit by natural disasters, which cause more than $1 billion in damages. Since 2000, there have been at least 53 separate $1-billion events. 

Worst Natural Disasters in Louisiana By Cost (Since 2000)

  1. Hurricane Katrina 2005: $190 billion
  2. Hurricane Harvey 2017: $151.3 billion
  3. Hurricane Ida 2021: $80.2 billion
  4. Hurricane Ike 2008: $40.8 billion
  5. Hurricane Ivan 2004: $32.2 billion

Worst Natural Disasters in Louisiana By Deaths (Since 2000)

  1. Hurricane Katrina 2005: 1,833 deaths
  2. April 2011 Tornado Outbreak: 321 deaths
  3. February 2021 Winter Storm and Cold Wave: 262 deaths
  4. Spring-Fall 2000 Drought and Heat Wave: 140 deaths
  5. 2022 Drought and Heat Wave: 136 deaths

*Cost and death tolls are for the entire disaster, including in other states affected.

Most Common Natural Disasters in Louisiana

1. Flooding

Because Louisiana is low-lying and in an alluvial flood plain, Louisiana is very high-risk when it comes to flooding. While the coastal areas are most prone to flooding, especially from hurricanes, nowhere in Louisiana is safe from flooding. 

Reports show that 21% of all properties in Louisiana are at risk of flooding, which will skyrocket to nearly 36% by 2050. This includes 98% of all properties in New Orleans and 100% of properties in Metairie.

Louisiana Flood Stats:

  • 447,100 properties at substantial risk in 2020
  • 148,197 properties at risk in New Orleans in 2020
  • 3.125 million FEMA flood damage claims since 2000
  • 973,000 properties will be at risk by 2050
  • 68,600 properties at almost certain risk by 2050

Which Areas of Louisiana Are Most At-Risk of Flooding?

Floods can occur in all parts of Louisiana, but some areas of the state are particularly at-risk. In the municipalities listed below, 100% of properties are at-risk.

  • Metairie
  • Chalmette
  • River Ridge
  • Terrytown
  • Jefferson
  • Kenner
  • Timberlane
  • Meraux
  • Arabi

Many major cities in Louisiana also have a huge number of properties at risk. In New Orleans, 98% of properties are at-risk. In Lake Charles, it’s 36% are at risk, and 30% of properties in Lafayette are at risk.

Worst Flood Events in Louisiana’s Recent History

The worst flood event to affect Louisiana in recent history was the August 2016 flood. In several days, the southern part of the state was hit with more than 20 inches of rain.

The flooding caused rivers to swell and widespread flooding over the region. More than 50,000 homes were destroyed, and 30,000 people had to be rescued. There was more than $10 billion in property damages and at least 13 fatalities due to the flooding.

2. Hurricanes

Louisiana is one of the most at-risk states in the country for tropical storms and hurricanes. In the period from 1851 to 2020, the state was hit by 62 hurricanes. This ranks Louisiana as #3 in the country for hurricane frequency. Of these, 24 were Category 1 and 20 were Category 2. 

Approximately half of Louisiana’s population lives in coastal areas. These areas are particularly susceptible to hurricane damage. Because of this, in 2022 Louisiana ranked #1 in expected hurricane damage losses per capita.

3. Tornados

Louisiana averages 44 tornadoes per year. Because many of these are very destructive, the state ranks #8 in the USA for tornado risk. 

While the state has not had an F5 tornado and only one F4 tornado in recent history, it has had numerous F3 tornadoes. These tornadoes have caused 7 deaths, over 100 injuries and massive amounts of property damage.

Most homes in Louisiana do not have basements, but it is possible to make an above-ground storm shelter.

4. Heat Waves and Droughts

Louisiana is part of the “Extreme Heat Belt” in the central United States. This region is very at risk of what the National Weather Service calls “dangerous” and “extremely dangerous” heat days.

A “dangerous” heat day is defined as one where the heat index is 103F and an “extremely dangerous” day has a heat index of 124F or above, which is considered unsafe for all people for any amount of time.

By 2053, an estimated 107 million people in the Extreme Heat Belt will be affected by Extreme Danger days. In Louisiana, more than 160,000 are considered vulnerable to extreme heat.

Currently, Louisiana sees an average of 35 days per year with dangerous temperatures. However, this number is going to increase over the next few decades. By 2050, Louisiana is expected to see 115 dangerous heat days per year. This makes Louisiana one of the most at-risk states in the country for dangerous heat.

The risk of dangerous heat days is expected to increase throughout all parts of Louisiana. However, Evangeline County is especially at-risk. By 2053, Evangeline is expected to have 34 consecutive days of dangerous heat. 

Heat waves are often accompanied by droughts. As an agricultural state, droughts can be particularly devastating in Louisiana and have a huge economic toll.

5. Lightning

Louisiana is one of the riskiest states when it comes to lightning strikes. Each year, there are approximately 942,000 lighting strikes. When you factor in the size of the state, that comes out to 20.3 lighting strikes per square mile. 

Because of this high lightning density, it is no surprise that Louisiana is in the top 10 when it comes to lightning deaths. In the period from 1959 to 2016, there were 146 lightning deaths.

6. Wildfires

Louisiana is at high-risk when it comes to wildfires. The state averages more than 1,000 wildfires per year. While most of these wildfires are small compared to the massive wildfires which burn in western states, Louisiana can still get massive wildfires.  

Because of climate change, the risk of wildfires in Louisiana is only growing. By 2050, an estimated 59% of all properties in the state will be at risk of wildfire.

Louisiana Wildfire Stats:

  • Acres burned in 2021: 10,303
  • Number of fires in 2021: 507
  • Average number of wildfires per year: 1,431
  • Average acres burned per year: 14,950
  • Number of properties currently at risk of wildfire: 1,254,936

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