Floods Identified as Top Natural Hazard Risk in 2017

A recent study released by CoreLogic® analyzed and evaluated the number and severity of natural hazard events that occurred across the U.S. in 2017. According to the study, floods were one of the top natural hazard risks of 2017, with heavy rains and major hurricanes causing major damage across the entire country.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters Table of Events, there were 5 individual weather-related flooding events with losses exceeding $1 billion in the U.S. in 2017.

1. California Flooding, February 2017

Heavy, persistent rainfall across northern and central California caused substantial flooding in several areas. Most notably, severe damage to the Oroville Dam spillway resulted in a multi-day evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents and excessive rainfall also caused Coyote Creek in San Jose to overflow, forcing 14,000 residents to evacuate. The estimated cost of damages is currently $1.5 billion.

2. Missouri and Arkansas Flooding and Central Severe Weather, May 2017

Heavy rainfall over a multiple states in the Midwest caused historic levels of flooding along several rivers. The most severe flooding occurred throughout Missouri, Arkansas and southern Illinois. The result of this event was widespread, damaging homes, businesses, infrastructure and agriculture in the affected areas. The cost of damages is estimated at $1.7 billion.

3. Hurricane Harvey, August 2017

Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, produced historic flooding across Houston and its surrounding areas. The historic U.S. rainfall amounts that occurred during Harvey caused massive flooding that displaced over 30,000 people and damaged or destroyed over 200,000 homes and businesses. Harvey’s damage is estimated to exceed $125 billion.

4. Hurricane Irma, September 2017

Hurricane Irma devastated the Florida Keys, destroying 25% of buildings and significantly damaging another 65%. Jacksonville, FL and Charleston, SC were also affected by Irma, receiving near-historic levels of storm surge that caused significant coastal flooding. Irma maintained a maximum sustained wind of 185 mph for 37 hours, the longest in the satellite era. The cost of damage from Irma is currently estimated to be around $50 billion.

5. Hurricane Maria, September 2017

Hurricane Maria’s high winds devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Extreme rainfall of up to 37 inches caused widespread flooding and mudslides across the island. The interruption to commerce and standard living conditions will be sustained for a long period, as much of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is rebuilding. The current cost of damage is estimated at $90 billion.

The flooding events of 2017 highlight a greater need for flood risk management going forward. While it would be nice to know ahead of time whether 2018 will be another year of record-breaking weather events, history has shown us that it is impossible to determine exactly when or where the next disaster will strike. Agents should focus on promoting preparedness and providing creative coverage solutions to fit the exposures faced by their clients.

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