U.S. Sees Record Low Natural-Disaster Activity in 2013

December 12, 2013

This year saw a record low number of natural-disaster events in the U.S., despite a few highly publicized storms — such as the twisters that ravaged Central Illinois — according to CoreLogic’s annual Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis. The report covers hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and sinkholes over the past year. 

"Many predicted that 2013 would be a record year of catastrophic destruction, but the number of natural disasters that typically cause widespread destruction — mainly hurricanes, wildfires, and tornadoes — were far less than anticipated in comparison to last year's record-setting hazard seasons," says Thomas Jeffery, senior principal scientist for CoreLogic. "Interestingly, one natural hazard that tends to receive very little attention took center stage in 2013, as three separate sinkhole catastrophes took place in Florida. Though massive damage and loss of life from sinkholes is uncommon, this year's events were large enough disasters to draw significant media coverage, raising public awareness of the true risk associated with this often-overlooked hazard."

Here’s an overview of natural disasters in the U.S. in the past year: 

  • Hurricanes: Hurricane threats were minor this year, with only 13 named storms and two that reached hurricane classification (none of which hit the U.S.), CoreLogic reports. 
  • Floods: Flood damages totaled about $2 billion for the year, more moderate compared to recent years. The most significant flooding events were in Boulder, Colo., in September, which caused damage to more than 19,000 homes. 
  • Tornadoes: Tornado activity this year hit a record low, with 229 fewer tornadoes than any other year in the past decade. However, the tornadoes that did touch down were “unusually violent,” CoreLogic notes. A tornado in Moore, Okla., that struck May 20 caused an estimated $2 billion in damage and resulted in 23 deaths. The widest tornado ever recorded — 2.6 miles at its widest point — struck El Reno, Okla., in early June. 
  • Wildfires: The number of wildfires this year was lower than 2012, and western states saw “dramatically lower wildfire activity than in recent years,” CoreLogic notes. The most destruction this year came with Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire, which destroyed 8,400 acres and 129 homes, as well as Colorado’s Black Forest Fire, which burned 14,000 acres and damaged more than 500 homes. The Rim Fire, about 100 miles east of San Francisco, was the third-largest fire in California’s history and burned more than 257,000 acres — but destroyed only 11 homes. Persisting drought conditions and a likely increase in fuel load in wildfire areas has prompted CoreLogic to predict increased wildfire risk in 2014 for California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Colorado.
  • Sinkholes: Three rare, extreme examples of sinkholes in Florida captured media attention this year. In Seffner, Fla., a sinkhole that formed under a home resulted in a man’s death. CoreLogic has a database of 23,000 identified sinkholes. It predicts that sinkhole property damage will continue to be a “substantial risk across the nation and for Florida residents in particular.” 

"Going into 2014, it's important to remember that hazard-driven property damage and loss can and does occur each year, and with the cyclical nature of some of these events, this year should be considered fair warning that next year will likely see a return to the higher average numbers of damaging natural disasters,” says Jeffery.

Source: CoreLogic

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