Flooding and Damaging Wind Were Most Destructive Natural Hazards in 2016

This post is part of a series sponsored by CoreLogic.

Annual Summary from CoreLogic Details 2016 Natural Hazard Events

CoreLogic® analyzes and evaluates the number and severity of natural hazard events that occurred across the U.S. annually in its Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis in order to help inform and protect homeowners and businesses from financial catastrophe. The report reviews specific annual hazard events for flooding, earthquake, wildfire, wind, hail, tornado, hurricanes and winter storms, with spotlights on several international events including Asia typhoon. The CoreLogic data shows relatively average or below-average activity for most U.S. natural hazards in 2016 with the exception of flood and wind, both of which saw above-average activity, due in large part to Hurricane Matthew.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters Table of Events, there were 15 individual weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion in the U.S. in 2016.1

Figure 1: Annual Frequency of Billion-Dollar Hazard Events in the U.S.
from 1985-2015

Note that the data in Figure 1 has been adjusted for inflation.
Source: NOAA
©2016 CoreLogic, Inc. All rights reserved.

Flood

  • At $17 billion, total flood loss in 2016 was six times greater than the overall flood damage experienced in 2015. 2
  • Five flood-related events in 2016 exceeded $1 billion in losses, including Hurricane Matthew in October with losses estimated at $3 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.

Wind

  • 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, FL recorded the highest wind speed of the year at 101 mph during Hurricane Matthew.
  • Among the nation’s largest cities, Nashville, TN ranks first as the windiest city with 21 wind related events and a maximum wind speed of 72 mph.

Wildfire

  • 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. 3
  • The Gatlinburg fires in Tennessee burned an estimated 16,000 acres, making it the most destructive in terms of acres burned for the year.

Hail

  • 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.

Tornado

  • The number of tornadoes in 2016 was near average with 1,059 recorded tornadoes.
  • 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.

Earthquake

  • 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. 4
  • 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.

Many wonder if catastrophic hazard events will be on the rise or the decline as we look ahead to 2017. 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.

References

1. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events
(Note that for the 2016 CoreLogic Natural Hazard Risk Summary & Analysis, the data were pulled in early December, at which time there were only 12 disaster events reported.)

2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CoreLogic, 2016.

3. National Interagency Fire Center, 2016.

4. U.S. Geological Survey, 2016.

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About Tom Jeffery, Senior Hazard Scientist

Dr. Thomas Jeffery is senior hazard scientist for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions. He is the lead scientist on development of various CoreLogic hazard risk datasets, including wildfire risk, coastal storm surge risk, earthquake risk and Florida sinkhole risk, and works with many of the top 100 U.S. insurance companies to help implement hazard risk models in automated underwriting and pricing systems. Tom is a nationally recognized leader in wildfire risk modeling and has been involved in brushfire modeling since the 1990s. He began his career as a Ph.D. graduate student at the University of Nebraska, at the Center for Advanced Land Management and Information Technology (CALMIT). Building on his early work in brushfire risk modeling, he continues to investigate and develop brushfire databases, using the most current geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing tools and data available More from Tom Jeffery, Senior Hazard Scientist

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