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.

Great ShakeOut Brings Awareness to Earthquake Dangers

New research into earthquake activity in the United States has revealed that nearly half of all Americans are at risk of potential ground shaking from earthquakes. This is almost twice the previous estimate of 75 million, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

“The new exposure estimate is nearly double the previous 2006 estimate of 75 million Americans in 39 states, and is attributed to both population growth and advances in science,” William Leith, USGS senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards and co-author of the study said in a statement. “Populations have grown significantly in areas prone to earthquakes, and USGS scientists have improved data and methodologies that allow for more accurate estimates of earthquake hazards and ground shaking.”

ShakeOut

To bring awareness to this potential danger, a number of organizations worldwide are participating today in the Great ShakeOut, which encourages individuals and organizations to develop contingency plans and practice earthquake drills.

During the drill, participants practice “drop, cover, and hold on,” the recommended safety action to take during an earthquake.

ShakeOut 1

Take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it securely. If there is not a desk or table nearby, drop to the floor against an interior wall, then protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets filled with heavy objects or glass.

While on the ground, look around and see what objects could fall during a potential earthquake, and make sure to secure or move those items after the drill.

The Great ShakeOut recommends that organizations:

Meet with department heads to review plan and obtain their buy-in, if necessary, and determine what level of drill your organization will conduct and who will participate. Consider drilling at a higher level to engage staff to be more effective during a disaster. (Drill manuals are available in ShakeOut regional website in the Resources section)

  • Level 1 – Simple: Drop, Cover and Hold On
  • Level 2 – Basic: Life Safety Drill
  • Level 3 – Intermediate: Decision-Making Drill
  • Level 4 – Advanced: Business Operations Drill

Create a drill/exercise plan that includes an overview of what your drill will consist of (even if just drop, cover and hold on), what you expect to happen during the drill, and a feedback session after the drill to identify strengths and weaknesses

  • Inform employees/staff participants of date and time of drill, your expectations for their participation, and the benefits of the drill
  • Encourage suppliers, vendors, contractors, partnering organizations, and others in your network to participate – as a means of protecting your organization – and share ShakeOut resources with them. (Consider other tasks that can protect your organization and supply chain, such as having service agreements in place to ensure that the services or products you rely on will be available after disaster)

Create an employee awareness campaign:

  • Post ShakeOut banners and signs throughout your organization to encourage and remind employees, vendors, and customer to participate
  • Initiate an email campaign to employees, staff, and customers with information and tips on how to prepare at home and work
  • Encourage employees to post a ShakeOut-related safety message on their outgoing email messages.

Review and use materials in the Resources section of your regional ShakeOut website:

• Drill broadcast audio/video recordings

• Earthquake safety recommendations for people with disabilities, for people in stores, etc.

• Custom flyers for many organization types

Hold a drill on ShakeOut day (or an alternative date)

  • Have post-drill discussions to hear what people learned and plan next steps.