CoreLogic, an information, analytics and business services provider, released its first ever Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis detailing the record-breaking natural disasters that struck the United States in 2011.
The report provides an overview of the billions of dollars in property damage caused by these catastrophic events, while summarizing their structural, geographic and financial impact on the United States.
“Weather-wise, it has certainly proven to be a memorable year in the United States and around the world. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released its total cost estimate of $52 billion and counting in damages resulting from natural disasters,” said Dr. Howard Botts, executive vice president and director of database development for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions. “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. As a result, homeowners, insurers, government officials and even the news media have been forced to rethink the way they view, plan for and react to natural hazards.”
Among key findings, the CoreLogic 2011 Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis report notes:
2011 was the most expensive hurricane season for the U.S. since 2008.
Though only three named Atlantic storms made landfall, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Tropical Storm Don, they caused at least $8 billion in damages, primarily from flooding.
Many risk experts feel it’s time to rethink national flood policies, especially in major metropolitan hubs like New York City.
The 2011 tornado season was the third most active since 1980, with 1,559 storms to date.
The “2011 Super Outbreak” that occurred between April 25 and April 28 has been identified as the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 336 confirmed tornadoes spread across the South, Midwest and Northeast of the U.S.
Property, casualty and commercial insurers are now beginning to reevaluate risk for tornado damage well beyond the traditional geographic focus on “tornado alley” and adjacent areas.
While the 2011 wildfire season continued the trend of having fewer but larger wildfires, there was a significant geographic shift in home losses over the past year from California, which had a cooler and wetter-than-average fire season, to the drought-affected states of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
In May, the largest fire in Arizona history, the Wallow fire, forced thousands of resident evacuations and burned more than 469,000 acres.
Texas and Oklahoma experienced a record number of wildfires. The Bastrop fire in Texas alone resulted in more than 1,600 homes and structures destroyed and 34,000 acres burned.
Wildfire trends indicate that wildfire activity often follows a cyclical pattern of increase and decrease due to changing seasonal weather patterns. Based on this, parts of California are expected to see a dramatic increase in wildfire acreage next year.
Persistent and intensifying drought conditions forecast for a large section of the U.S. for the coming year is expected to intensify and spread wildfire activity in early 2012.
The non-western U.S. earthquakes that occurred this year in Virginia and Oklahoma startled many residents who believed earthquakes to be strictly a far western U.S. phenomenon.
A 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Virginia on August 23, and was felt throughout the eastern seaboard. The tremors caused damage to several iconic local structures, namely the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.
In early November, Oklahoma experienced a series of low magnitude earthquakes, with a quake on November 5 registering a 5.6 magnitude, the strongest ever recorded in the state.
CoreLogic estimates flood losses in the U.S. this year at approximately $10.67 billion, based on various flooding and storm events recorded in the National Climate Data Center.
The melting of an above-average snowpack across the northern Rocky Mountains, combined with abnormally high precipitation, caused the Missouri and Souris rivers to swell beyond their banks across the upper Midwest.
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.
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.
Based on the trend pattern, 2012 should not be an extreme flood year – in fact, there should be several more years before the next extreme flood loss year. U.S. flood loss in 2012 is projected at approximately $3.53 billion.
“The natural disasters felt throughout the country this year will undoubtedly shape the nation’s response to these events in 2012,” said Dr. Botts. “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. The year 2011 was a year that informed the general understanding of risk and, hopefully, will lead to improved preparedness for years to come.”
CoreLogic generated findings for the first annual Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis mining the company’s comprehensive parcel database and natural hazard risk analytics as well as data from the National Climatic Data Center and NASA.
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