Hurricane season is once again upon us, and as Shakespeare noted so eloquently (love the spelling) in King Lear (“…hurricanoes, spout till you have drenched our steeples…”), so is the potential for the ensuing floods and other aftereffects.

From 2004 to 2013, 77 hurricanes hit the United States causing $310 billion in damages according to researchers at the University of North Carolina, with 35 of them classified as “major.”

Of the 30 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, 15 occurred between 2004 and 2013, including Katrina (August 2005), Rita (September 2005), and Ike (September 2008).

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, predominantly striking the city of New Orleans with wind speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. Overflow from Lake Pontchartrain breached the levees, flooding approximately 80 percent of the city and creating the most devastating natural disaster in our nation’s history. In total, the storm killed over 1,800 people and demolished more than 200,000 homes; New Orleans alone accounted for nearly 1,000 of the deaths and 134,000 of the homes destroyed. Immediately after, the city’s population was less than half of what it had been in 2000. The most recent data indicate that the population has only recovered to 79 percent of its pre-Katrina levels.

Although estimates vary, the storm is believed to have caused over $100 billion in property damage, far higher than any other natural disaster the United States has experienced. The full economic costs were even higher (possibly as high as $250 billion) when other effects such as disrupted oil production and stunted economic growth are considered. About 100,000 jobs were lost in New Orleans a year after the storm, but remarkably, the city of New Orleans appears to have made a full recovery. Federal spending after the disaster (totaling $120.5 billion) for emergency relief and rebuilding efforts clearly played a vital role in the economic recovery. While intangibles such as the emotional trauma and mental distress were not taken into consideration, it is encouraging and little short of amazing that the city has not suffered substantial long-term economic harm from such a devastating storm.

About 1.5 million people from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were displaced by Katrina, resulting in a large influx of evacuees to neighboring states, including Texas. Houston was among the metropolitan areas to receive the most evacuees (an estimated 250,000), and it has been estimated that nearly 40 percent of Louisiana evacuees who did not return to their pre-Katrina parishes migrated to Texas, along with nearly ten percent of Mississippi evacuees who did not return to their previous counties. This migration significantly affected the labor force and social services of the state of Texas.

Only three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita made landfall along the Texas-Louisiana border. As the storm traveled across the Gulf of Mexico, it upgraded to a category 5 hurricane with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour. For a time, 98 percent of oil and natural gas production in the Gulf was shut down as rigs were evacuated. In the end, Hurricane Rita caused significant damage to oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf, destroying a total of 66 platforms and extensively damaging 37, significantly worse than Katrina’s destruction of 47 platforms and extensive damage to 20. Rita destroyed approximately 23,000 homes in Louisiana and Texas, and 120 people lost their lives during the disaster. Damage estimates exceed $10 billion, placing Rita as the third most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.

Texas was particularly affected by Hurricanes Rita and Ike. Rita resulted in well over $2 billion in insured property losses in Texas, while Ike caused insured property damage of about $10 billion. The energy sector was particularly hard hit, as Katrina, Rita, and Ike all led to temporary shutdowns in crude oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina and Rita destroyed nearly 115 offshore oil and gas platforms, damaged almost 460 oil and gas pipelines, and caused nearly 114 million barrels of oil production capacity to go unused between August 2005 and January 2006 (roughly 20 percent of the annual output of the Gulf of Mexico). Hurricane Ike also damaged oil pipelines and rigs throughout the Gulf of Mexico, causing a shutdown in 22 Texas land-based oil refineries.

Economists have debated about the long-term effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters for years, and have come up with four basic hypotheses. One camp believes that there is a short-term decline in output per capita followed by growth, but there is no recovery over the long-run to the original trend. Others agree that there is a short-term decline in output, but argue long-term recovery to the trend line.

An argument that persists says that disaster cause a short-term decline in the economy, but actually stimulates growth over the long run to above the trend line as the increased investment to replace the destroyed assets leads to greater growth than would otherwise be achieved. Some even espouse the idea that disasters improve the economy by eliminating outdated infrastructure. The evidence does not back these “disaster is good” theories, and some researchers speculate that major storms can suppress growth for decades. (I agree.) Of course, the human toll defies calculation.

The next few months will doubtless see the formation of hurricanes which will threaten the United States and possibly the Gulf Coast. From an economic perspective, these storms disrupt, disturb, and damage. Rebuilding can take time, but it clearly does happen. Here’s hoping the 2015 season is a relatively quiet one.