Flood, Wind Dominant Natural Hazards in 2016

While most natural hazards occurring in the United States last year saw average or below average activity, the exceptions were flood and wind, according to the CoreLogic report Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis, released today.

Severe flood events driven by substantial rainfall were the dominant natural hazards, with Louisiana and North Carolina floods being the major loss contributors. As in 2015, hurricanes and tropical storms in 2016 continued to cause inland flooding through increased and intense rainfall—even when not making landfall, according to the report.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said there were 12 individual weather and climate disaster events in the U.S. with losses exceeding $1 billion in 2016.

According to the report:

  • Based on NOAA and CoreLogic analysis, the overall flood loss in 2016, driven by six, 1,000-year plus rain events, was approximately $17 billion, which is six times greater than the overall flood damage experienced in 2015.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recorded 943 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in 2016, with more than 60 percent of these earthquakes located in Oklahoma.
  • The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported a total of 5,415,121 acres burned from 62,864 separate fires in 2016. While the total acres burned in 2016 fell below the 10-year average, significant losses occurred, with thousands of homes in California and Tennessee destroyed by several smaller fires that burned in populated areas.
  • Wind activity in 2016 was slightly above average, due in large part to strong winds brought by Hurricane Matthew.
  • Hail activity in 2016 was near the average, and Texas experienced the worst of this natural hazard.
  • Tornado activity in 2016 was near average compared with previous years.
  • Hurricane Matthew developed late in the year and grew to a Category 5 storm, resulting in substantial damage along the southeastern seaboard.
  • There were below-average levels of tropical cyclone activity in the western North Pacific Basin encompassing East and Southeast Asia in 2016.

However, 2016 became known as the year without a winter. Nine winter storms impacted the U.S. in 2016, the most notable being the late-January winter storm in New York.

“History has continually shown us that it is impossible to determine exactly when or where the next wildfire, flood or earthquake will strike, which is why preparedness, response and post-loss assessment are paramount,” CoreLogic said.

Anticipating Hurricane Matthew, 4 States Declare Emergency

Rebounding to Category 4 hurricane classification, Matthew now has winds up to 140 miles per hour and has caused at least 28 deaths in three Caribbean countries. It is heading for the southeastern U.S., where four states—Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina—have issued a state of emergency and evacuation orders in coastal regions.

Matthew was a Category 4 hurricane through Tuesday, was downgraded to a Category 3 early on Wednesday, and has now returned to Category 4 strength today, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a warning on Thursday urging those in evacuation zones to leave immediately. “Based on the current forecast, the heights of storm surge will be above ground. Waves will be crashing on roofs. Homes will be destroyed,” he tweeted in both English and Spanish on Thursday morning.

“Time is up, Hurricane Matthew is approaching Florida. If you are in an evacuation zone, leave now,” he said in a statement. “To everyone on Florida’s east coast, if you are reluctant to evacuate, just think of all the people the hurricane has already killed.  You and your family could be among these numbers if you don’t take this seriously.”

Scott said that so far more than 4,000 National Guard members have been activated to help with evacuations and sheltering. He tweeted that as of 6:00 a.m., more than 3,000 people were in about 60 shelters. The state offers a mobile app to help those in flood-prone areas find the nearest shelter and also avoid traffic congestion.

A state of emergency has been declared by Georgia’s governor for 13 coastal counties. South Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency and has begun coastal evacuations that may affect up to 1 million people. Because of heavy traffic, lane reversals on some highways are in effect, and schools and government offices in 25 South Carolina counties are closed today. North Carolina’s governor has declared a state of emergency for more than 50 counties and issued a mandatory evacuation order for Ocracoke Island, AIR Worldwide reported.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent personnel and supplies to all four states, and President Obama is meeting with FEMA officials coordinating the response to Hurricane Matthew at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

According to CoreLogic, a Category 3 storm hitting Miami could potentially damage 176,000 homes at a reconstruction cost value (RCV) of about $3.8 billion.

CoreLogic’s Storm Surge Risk Report estimates that more than 6.8 million homes located along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are at risk of storm surge damage, with a total RCV of about $1.5 trillion.The length of coastline, coastal elevation and density of residential development all contribute to the risk of storm surge flooding.

According to CoreLogic, the total number and total value of residential properties for the four states currently bracing for Hurricane Matthew are:

Total Number and Total Value of Residential Properties by State

America’s Safest Driving Cities

Winter weather has yet to appear in many parts of the country, but it’s on its way. When factoring rainy or snowy conditions into collision frequency, however, some cities are safer than others in many types of weather, according to the 2015 Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report.

driversWhile there are many factors that impact highway safety, an improving economy and lower gas prices have led to an increase in the number of miles being driven. According to the Federal Highway Administration’s latest Traffic Volume Trend Report, cumulative travel for 2015 is up by 3.5%. The September report is based on hourly traffic count data reported by the states, using data collected at about 4,000 continuous traffic counting locations nationwide.

Recently, the National Safety Council estimated that the U.S. is on track for its deadliest driving year since 2007. In the first six months of 2015, NSC reported traffic deaths were up 14% from a year ago, and serious injuries were 30% higher over the same period.

The city with the best driving report this year is Kansas City, Kansas. Factoring in precipitation, Cape Coral, Fla., and Brownsville, Tex., came in second and third, respectively. Cities at the bottom of the list of 200 were Boston, Massachusetts; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Baltimore, Maryland. New York City was listed at 151.

The report is based on Allstate’s claims data, ranking America’s 200 largest cities in terms of car collision frequency to identify which have the safest drivers. The data also shows how these cities rank when precipitation is a factor. The rankings are based on the expected driver performance given each city’s average annual precipitation as measured by NOAA, according to Allstate.

America’s safest driving cities:


October 2015 the Warmest Ever Recorded

It isn’t just your imagination: October 2015 was the warmest on record worldwide, and saw the greatest above-average deviation for any month. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.76 °F above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.36 °F. The globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.39°F above the 20th century average—the highest for October in 136 years of NOAA records.

NOAA land and ocean temp percentiles

October was also the warmest month ever compared to average, out of a total of 1,630 months. What’s more, NOAA reports, eight of the first 10 months of the year have been record warm for their respective months—also a record number of broken records. Globally-averaged land surface and sea surface temperatures have been 1.55 °F and 2.30 °F above average, respectively, surpassing all previous records. With many months setting record high temperatures by unprecedented margins, NOAA said in August that there was a 97% chance that 2015 would secure the title of the warmest year on record, and it remains solidly on track.

In early November, the Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, and NASA both reported that the Earth’s average temperature is likely to rise 1 °C above pre-industrial levels for the first time by the end of 2015. This milestone is significant since it marks the halfway point to two degrees Celsius, the internationally accepted limit for avoiding the worst consequences of climate change, the Washington Post reported. Since 2000, global monthly heat records have been broken 32 times, yet the last time a monthly cold record was set was in 1916, according to CBS News.

Some of the heat is likely due to a strong El Nino event in the Eastern Pacific that continues to gather strength. This year’s El Nino is already one of the three strongest ever seen, CNN reports, but cannot account for all of the year’s warmth, as 13 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. Rather, it is the combination of long-term warming and the strong El Nino pushing Earth toward its second consecutive warmest year on record.

According to Aon Benfield’s October 2015 Catastrophe Report, there were three billion-dollar weather-related disasters in October: flooding in South Carolina with economic losses of at least $2 billion, $4.2 billion in damage from Typhoon Mujigae in China, and $1 billion in damage from flash flooding in France. The firm estimates worldwide economic losses from October to total more than $10 billion. There have been 21 billion-dollar weather events through October 2015, Aon reported, on pace for a lower total than the annual average of 28.

Check out the infographic below for more of the major climate anomalies and events from October 2015:

NOAA october climate anomalies