Floods, Damaging Winds Most Destructive Natural Hazards in 2016

January 26, 2017

Last year’s natural hazards were reportedly below average or average with the exception of flood and wind, both of which saw above-average activity, due in large part to Hurricane Matthew, according to CoreLogic’s annual Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis.

The report reviews annual hazard activity in the U.S. including events for flooding, earthquake, wildfire, wind, hail, tornado, hurricanes and winter storms, as well as several international events including Asia typhoon. Highlights from the analysis include:


At $17 billion, total flood loss in 2016 was six times greater than the overall flood damage experienced in 2015.

Five flood-related events in 2016 exceeded $1 billion in losses, including:

  • The Louisiana flood in August with losses estimated at more than $10 billion.
  • Hurricane Matthew in October with losses estimated at $3 billion.
  • As of December 7, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) had received more the 10,000 claims and paid more than $70 million to policyholders and victims in the five-state area.
  • The Sabine River Basin flood in East Texas and Louisiana in March with losses estimated at $1.3 billion.
  • The Houston flood in April with losses estimated at $1.2 billion.
  • West Virginia flash and riverine flooding in June with losses estimated at $1 billion.
Atlantic Hurricane

Hurricane activity in the Atlantic was slightly higher than average in 2016 with 15 named storms, including eight tropical storms and seven hurricanes. Three of these were major hurricanes identified as Category 3 or greater.

Hurricane Matthew caused an estimated $4-6 billion worth of damage in insured losses, $3.5-5 billion caused by wind and $500,000-1 million caused by storm surge.


Due in large part to the strong winds brought by Hurricane Matthew, the land area impacted by severe winds (>80 mph) was three times greater than in 2015.

  • Kennedy Space Center, Fla., recorded the highest wind speed of the year at 101 mph during Hurricane Matthew.

Almost one-third of the the continental U.S. experienced wind events of 60 mph or higher in 2016.

  • Among the nation’s largest cities, Nashville, Tenn., ranks first as the windiest city with 21 wind-related events and a maximum wind speed of 72 mph.

The number of wildfires (62,864) in 2016, as well as the total number of acres burned (5,415,121 acres), was below the annual average.

The four most destructive wildfires of 2016 in terms of homes destroyed include:

  • The Gatlinburg fires in Tennessee which burned an estimated 16,000 acres and numerous homes (final number of homes destroyed has not yet been confirmed).
  • The Clayton Fire in northern California which burned 3,929 acres and 189 homes.
  • The Blue Cut Fire in southern California which burned 36,274 acres and 105 homes.
  • The Soberanes Fire along the central coast of California which burned 132,100 acres and 57 homes.

Hail activity for 2016 was near average with 243,647 square miles, or 7.8 percent, of the continental U.S. impacted by severe hail, defined as 1″ or greater.

Texas experienced the worst of this natural hazard, with hail and wind events expected to exceed $5.5 billion in estimated losses once the 2016 figures are tallied, the highest for the state since 2008.


The number of tornadoes in 2016 was near average with 1,059 recorded tornadoes, making it one of the most inactive years since record keeping began in 1954.

With 102 confirmed tornadoes, the month of February experienced the most tornado activity in 2016, the second most-active February in history after 2008 when 146 tornadoes occurred.


As of December 1, there were 943 identified earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater across the country with more than 60 percent occurring in Oklahoma.

Even though California is the first state that comes to mind when one thinks of earthquake activity, there has been a rapid change in the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma compared with California since 1970.

Winter Storms

Following one of the harshest winters (2014-2015) on record, December 2015 through February 2016 was the warmest winter in 121 years, despite experiencing nine winter storms.

The most significant winter storm of the year, which occurred in January, impacted more than 100 million people from the south through the northeast, prompting many states to declare a state of emergency. Several all-time snow records were broken as well, including a total of 30.5 inches at JFK Airport in New York City, breaking the previous record of 26 inches set during the blizzard of 2003.

Source: CoreLogic

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