Canadian Underwriter

Flooding and damaging winds most destructive U.S. natural hazards in 2016: CoreLogic

January 26, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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Natural hazard activity in the United States in 2016 was “relatively average or below average,” with the exception of flood and wind, both of which saw above-average activity, due in large part to Hurricane Matthew, CoreLogic, Inc. said on Thursday.

Louisiana Flooding Warming

FILE – In this Aug. 16, 2016 file photo, residents survey the flood water on Old Jefferson Highway at Bayou Manchac in Prairieville, La. The flooding killed at least 13 people, damaged 150,000 homes and cost at least $8.7 billion. (AP Photo/Max Becherer, File)

In its annual 2016 Natural Hazard Risk Summary & Analysis, the global property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions provider reviewed events such as flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, wind, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes and winter storms, with spotlights on several international events like a typhoon in Asia.

The analysis found that at US$17 billion, total flood loss in 2016 was six times greater than the overall flood damage experienced in 2015. CoreLogic noted in a statement that five flood-related events in 2016 exceeded US$1 billion in losses, including:

  • The Louisiana flood last August, with losses estimated at more than US$10 billion;
  • Hurricane Matthew in October, with losses estimated at US$3 billion;
  • The Sabine River Basin flood in east Texas and Louisiana in March, with losses estimated at US$1.3 billion;
  • The Houston flood in April, with losses estimated at US$1.2 billion; and
  • West Virginia flash and riverine flooding in June, with losses estimated at US$1 billion.

Regarding wind, due in large part to strong winds brought by Hurricane Matthew, the land area impacted by severe winds (greater than 80 miles per hour) 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. CoreLogic said in the statement that nearly one-third of the continental U.S. experienced wind events of 60 mph or higher in 2016. Among the nation’s largest cities, Nashville, Tenn. ranked as the windiest city, with 21 wind-related events last year and a maximum wind speed of 72 mph.

The report noted that Atlantic hurricane activity 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 US$4.6 billion worth of damage in insured losses, $US3.5 to US$5 billion caused by wind and US$500,000 to US$1 million caused by storm surge.

The 2016 activity for the other hazards – wildfire, hail, tornado, earthquake and winter storm – include:

  • 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. The four most destructive wildfires of 2016 in terms of homes destroyed were: 1) 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); 2) The Clayton Fire in northern California, which burned 3,929 acres and 189 homes; 3) The Blue Cut Fire in southern California, burning 36,274 acres and 105 homes; and 4) 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 %, of the continental U.S. impacted by severe hail, defined as 1 inch or greater. Texas experienced the worst of this natural hazard, with hail and wind events expected to exceed US$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, 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.
  • Earthquake – As of Dec. 1, there were 943 identified earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater across the country with more than 60% 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 John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, breaking the previous record of 26 inches set during the blizzard of 2003.

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