NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The severe storms that carved a path of destruction across large swaths of the American South this week caused an estimated $2 billion to $5 billion in insured losses, catastrophe modeling firm Eqecat said Friday.
Eqecat said the 2011 tornado season is just getting underway and is already setting damage records. The firm's estimate is based in part on initial reports of nearly 10,000 buildings destroyed.
The storms killed at least 316 people in six Southern states and left entire neighborhoods in ruins. On Friday, President Obama visited Tuscaloosa, Ala. neighborhoods that were flattened by tornados.
"I've got to say I've never seen devastation like this," he told reporters.
The storms leveled neighborhoods, rendered major roads impassable and left at least 800,000 customers without power Friday afternoon.
Even with that level of damage, Eqecat's cost estimate for the recent natural disasters in Japan was much higher.
Losses from the quake, tsunami and fires there totaled at least $100 billion, including $20 billion in damage to residences and $40 billion in damage to infrastructure such as roads, rail and port facilities, the firm estimated in March.
In the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, the most expensive earthquake in history, total losses were $100 billion, but insured losses only $3 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
By comparison, the 1994 quake in Northridge, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles, had the highest tally of insured losses ever -- $15.3 billion. In today's dollars, adjusted for inflation, that comes to $22.7 billion.
Billionaire Richard Branson and 15 major business leaders from around the world are calling for an end to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. More
Small business owners say the economy is still their biggest challenge, which keeps them from expanding and hiring, according to a CNNMoney-Manta survey. More
Twitter is taking down accounts sharing images showing the murder of U.S. journalist James Foley by Islamic militants. More
When hairdresser Mark Bustos isn't cutting the hair of fashion designers and real estate moguls, he's traveling around the world giving free haircuts to the homeless. More