Following a rash of extreme weather events and natural disasters that occurred 2011 and 2012 in the U.S., many were predicting that 2013 would usher in more devastation.
But a new report from CoreLogic shows that 2013 was pretty tame, compared to the two preceding years.
‘Many predicted that 2013 would be a record year of catastrophic destruction, but the number of natural disasters that typically cause widespread destruction, mainly hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes, were far less than anticipated in comparison to last year's record-setting hazard seasons,’ says Dr. Thomas Jeffery, senior principal scientist for CoreLogic, in a statement. ‘Interestingly, one natural hazard that tends to receive very little attention took center stage in 2013 as three separate sinkhole catastrophes took place in Florida. Though massive damage and loss of life from sinkholes is uncommon, this year's events were large enough disasters to draw significant media coverage, raising public awareness of the true risk associated with this often-overlooked hazard.’
The firm's annual Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis offers details on the impact of hurricane, flood, tornado, wildfire and sinkhole events over the course of the year, as well as a summary of potential risk from natural hazards in 2014. The report summarizes the property, geographic and financial impact of natural disasters across the U.S. over the course of the year.
The report notes that there was little hurricane activity in 2013. With only 13 named storms, just two reached hurricane classification. More importantly, none had a direct impact on the U.S. Hurricane totals were both lower than pre-season predictions and disproportionately lower than previous hurricane seasons dating back to 2003.
Flooding in the U.S. was moderate compared with recent years, partly due to the low number of Atlantic storms and related coastal flooding. National flood losses for 2013 are expected to total approximately $2 billion. The most significant flooding event came in September, when a storm hit Boulder, Co., causing flood damage to more than 19,000 homes, according to the report.
Tornado activity in 2013 was also at a historic low, with 229 fewer tornadoes than any year in the past decade, as of Oct. 25. Nonetheless, the severity of numerous Oklahoma storms and an unusually violent wave of late-season storms affecting 12 states in the Midwest were no less catastrophic.
The worst of these was the EF5 tornado that swept a 17-mile path through Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20. The tornado killed 23 people and injured 377 others. It also caused an estimated $2 billion in damage, according to the report.
The number of wildfires was also lower then 2012. Excluding California, Colorado, Idaho and Washington, which perpetuated their 10-year average in terms of acreage affected, the Western states saw dramatically lower wildfire activity than in recent years.
However, several individual fires caused massive destruction, including Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire, which destroyed 8,400 acres and 129 homes, and Colorado's Black Forest Fire, which burned 14,000 acres and destroyed or damaged over 500 homes. Total property loss from the Black Forest Fire is expected to exceed $300 million, according to the report.
In addition, the Rim Fire, approximately 100 miles east of San Francisco, was the third largest fire in California state history. Although it destroyed only 11 homes, it burned more than 257,000 acres, including much of the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.
As mentioned, sinkholes were the only type of disaster that increased in 2013. A sinkhole in Seffner, Fla., caused a tragic death in March when it formed underneath a man's home; a 100-foot sinkhole that formed near Clermont, Fla., severely damaged a tourist villa; and a 90-foot wide by 50-foot deep sinkhole in Dunedin, Fla. resulted in the collapse of two homes.
CoreLogic maintains a sinkhole database that currently recognizes about 23,000 identified sinkholes. The firm forecasts that sinkhole activity and subsequent property damage will continue to be a substantial risk across the nation and for Florida residents in particular in 2014.
‘Though there have been fewer billion-dollar catastrophes over the course of 2013, history has demonstrated time and time again that a temporary reprieve from natural disasters cannot and should not be expected to continue into the future,’ Jeffery says. ‘Going into 2014, it's important to remember that hazard-driven property damage and loss can and does occur each year, and with the cyclical nature of some of these events, this year should be considered fair warning that next year will likely see a return to the higher average numbers of damaging natural disasters.’
To download a copy of the report, click here.