hurricane Ida
Satellite image of Hurricane Ida, 28th August 2021
Weather-related events have resulted in the deaths of 538 Americans in 2021, making it the deadliest year for major weather disasters in the USA since 2017, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, killing more than 3,000 people, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported.

For the 50 U.S. states, 2021 is the deadliest weather year since 2011, when 764 died primarily because of several violent tornado outbreaks across the South.

"These deaths in 2021 are mostly the result of extreme summer heat in the Pacific Northwest, extreme cold across the South during the February freeze and Hurricane Ida across many states," Adam Smith, a climatologist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, told USA TODAY.

homeless winter
© Eric Gay, AP
People living on the streets use blankets to keep warm, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities.
Specifically, the extremely hot temperatures in the Pacific Northwest caused hundreds of heat-related fatalities across Oregon and Washington in late June and early July. The freeze and extreme cold in the South in February caused or contributed to the deaths of more than 125 people in Texas, NOAA said.

Hurricane Ida caused 96 deaths in the Deep South and the Northeast. Remnants of the storm in the Northeast were severe. "Flash flood emergencies were declared in New Jersey and New York for the first time, producing damage to homes, businesses, vehicles and infrastructure while also causing dozens of fatalities," NOAA reported.

The 538 people who have died from the disasters during the first nine months of 2021 is more than twice the number of deaths from all billion-dollar disasters that occurred in 2020, Smith said.

The USA has seen an "unprecedented" 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the first nine months, according to NOAA. This year is outpacing 2020 in event frequency, total cost and total deaths.

"It's currently unclear if 2021 will match or surpass the record-smashing number of 22 separate billion-dollar disasters that was set in 2020," Smith told USA TODAY.

NOAA defines a billion-dollar disaster as any specific weather event that causes at least $1 billion in damage. This is a record seventh-consecutive year in which the USA experienced 10 or more billion-dollar disasters.