Rethinking Threats: Record Year for Natural Disasters

December 16, 2011

It’s been a record-breaking year for natural disasters striking the U.S., including hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires, according to a report from CoreLogic’s new Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis group. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated $52 billion — and counting — in damages from natural disasters this year. 

“Several major urban areas faced unexpected catastrophes in 2011, putting disaster readiness plans and emergency response teams to the test and causing severe damage in regions underprepared for unusual weather events,” Howard Botts, executive vice president and director of database development for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions, said in a statement. “As a result, home owners, insurers, government officials and even the news media have been forced to rethink the way they view, plan for and react to natural hazards.”

Here are a few highlights from the CoreLogic 2011 Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis report: 

Tornadoes: The 2011 tornado season brought 1,559 storms. The period between April 25 and April 28 was the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 336 confirmed tornadoes hitting South, Midwest, and Northeast regions. Property, casualty, and commercial insurers are re-evaluating the risk from tornado damage and expanding their outlook beyond to just what was once considered “tornado alley” to other areas of the U.S.

--Hurricanes: Hurricanes ripped through the U.S. in full force in 2011, marking the most expensive hurricane season for the country since 2008. Three Atlantic hurricanes made landfall this year, causing $8 billion in damages, mostly through flooding damage.

--Wildfires: Large wildfires caused significant home losses in California as well as Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Texas and Oklahoma saw a record number of wildfires this year. In Texas, the Bastrop fire alone destroyed 1,600 homes and structures and burned 34,000 acres. Areas of California are expected to see a significant rise in wildfires in 2012 too, according to the report. 

--Floods: Flood losses this year reached about $10.67 billion, according to the CoreLogic report. “Record-breaking rainfall in the Ohio valley in the spring and summer, combined with melting snowpack, resulted in historical flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries,” according to the report. “The floods of 2011 heightened awareness of flood risk outside of the FEMA 100-year flood zones. There has also been an emphasized need to raise current flood protection standards for the critical and strategic infrastructures in the U.S.”

“The catastrophes we experienced as a nation have already impacted and will continue to impact the policies, procedures and safety measures in place for many homes and businesses,” Botts says. “The year 2011 was a year that informed the general understanding of risk and, hopefully, will lead to improved preparedness for years to come.”

Source: “The More You Know: Record-Breaking Year of Natural Catastrophes Changing How Home owners Plan for Disasters,” RISMedia (Dec. 15, 2011)