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SC impacted by 2 $1 billion weather disasters in 2020 out of the 50 recorded globally

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Furniture and piles of debris were all that remained after two homes were struck by a tornado on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Hampton County. File/Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Two weather events that affected South Carolina were among the 50 global disasters last year that each broke the $1 billion mark  for damages, from hurricanes, severe storms, fires and other hazards.

A string of tornadoes that tore through the state in April, and Hurricane Isaias, which scraped the northern part of South Carolina's coast in August, both were part of those major events.

They join a record 50 such disasters from across the planet in 2020 that sparked more than $1 billion each in losses, which was also a record. 

The tally comes from a recent report from Aon, an insurance brokerage.

Twenty-six of these events touched the United States, the most of any region across the globe. But the single-most-expensive event was seasonal flooding seen in China that amounted to nearly $35 billion in damages alone. 

The tally comes as destructive weather events become more expensive. This is partly due to climate change and partly because more homes, businesses and other assets are in harm's way, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Not all of the events are more deadly, however. For example, a drought in the western United States was estimated to cost $4.5 billion but did not cause any deaths, Aon said.

South Carolina, by contrast, was left relatively unscathed in a year that saw fires rage in the West, an inland hurricane rip across the Midwest and several tropical cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Palmetto State faced two main damaging weather events. The first was a spate of tornadoes in April. S.C. Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker called the train of twisters "one of the largest tornado outbreaks in the state's history."

That event spawned 13 tornadoes in the state, including one EF4, the highest intensity for a twister, according to the S.C. State Climate Office.

More than 1,200 homes were damaged in South Carolina, with about 200 of them destroyed. The storm's costs totaled more than $28 million, Becker said.

Counting the system's damage from the Midwest through the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast, it clocked in as the 14th-most expensive weather disaster on Aon's list for 2020.

Hurricane Isaias scraped the northern edge of the Grand Strand but didn't deal a big enough blow to warrant a presidential disaster declaration in the Palmetto State, Becker said, and EMD did not tabulate total state damages. 

Its damages collectively in the Caribbean, Canada and elsewhere in the United States hit $5 billion and did push the storm as the 10th-most expensive on Aon's list. 

South Carolina was also soaked by Tropical Storm Bertha, which was named as it chugged over Charleston in May. That event had little lasting impact; Becker called it "rain with a name."

The single costliest event to affect only the United States, however, was the spate of severe storms including a derecho that flattened large swaths of the Midwest last August. That led to a $12.6 billion loss, Aon said, after the inland storm that reached wind speeds of 126 mph swept Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. 

It was also the most expensive event recorded in the "severe weather" category, which includes serious thunderstorms, tornadoes and hail.

Severe weather proved even more expensive, on the whole, than hurricanes and tropical storms in 2020, Aon said.

Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.

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