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Irene could be among 10 costliest U.S. disasters

Early estimates suggest the damage wrought by Hurricane, and then Tropical Storm Irene upon the East Coast will cost the U.S. economy $7 billion, and the New York Times reports that may be a conservative estimate, making Irene one of the 10 costliest disasters in the nation's history.

The Times puts the price tag anywhere between $7 billion and $10 billion, and says the real cost may actually be higher than in previous natural disasters due to the fact that the nation's insurers will bear less of the burden.

Much of the damage from Irene was caused by devastating inland flooding - from ruined fields of crops in North Carolina, to swamped homes all the way up to Vermont, and insurance companies may swallow less than 40 percent of the cost to put things right again, analysts from Kinetic Analysis tell the Times.

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In past disasters, insurers have stumped up about 50 percent of the costs, according to Kinetic, but they say the fact that many insurance plans do not cover flood damage, and higher deductibles for coastal residents in recent years, mean much more of the money will have to come directly from Americans' pockets after Irene.

Wind damage is generally covered by insurance, but most of the havoc from Irene - which is now blamed for 49 deaths - was caused by the flood waters.

According to's partner site MoneyWatch, hurricanes usually account for about half of the nation's annual insurance payouts.

This year, according to MoneyWatch, insurers have already paid out almost $25 billion thanks to natural disasters. Payouts normally amount to about $30 billion, for the whole year -- and we're less than half way through the Atlantic hurricane season.

MoneyWatch: A look at recent U.S. disaster costs

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