Hurricanes to Increase in Coming Decades


Hurricane | Image by Artsiom P

A recent report suggests that hurricanes are expected to worsen in the coming decades and that more of the country may be at risk.

First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit, released a report pointing to the results of a recent national risk assessment. It found that the United States will experience increasingly severe tropical cyclone winds and risk damage to buildings and infrastructure.

The report’s authors expect the average annual loss (AAL) to increase from $18.5 billion to $19.9 billion in the next 30 years, with Florida accounting for approximately 73% of all expected damages nationally.

Considering that Florida has been the target of various devastating storms recently, such as Hurricane Ian, these figures might not be too much of a surprise.

However, as The Washington Post discovered through an analysis of First Street’s data, what some might find surprising is that hurricanes are also expected to move further inland in the coming decades. 

The analysis found that states such as Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois could all experience winds much higher than their normal rates. Storms that are category three, four, or five have increased substantially since the 1980s and are expected to continue increasing over the next few decades. 

“The physics just allow for the formation of more intense storms,” said Matthew Eby, First Street’s founder and chief executive, per The Washington Post. “There’s a big jump in who might be facing the most extreme end of the spectrum.” 

In addition to winds moving more inland, storms are also expected to move further north. Due to moisture levels in the atmosphere, changing large-scale wind patterns, and various other reasons, areas in the northeast are in for heavy winds and storms. 

The greatest threat to these areas unfamiliar with this kind of severe weather is the potential for local inhabitants to not prepare properly for them. 

“Places that are not well adapted to it are going to face particular difficulty,” said James Kossin, a retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration atmospheric scientist, per The Washington Post.

Moreover, this increase in storms in northern states does not mean that their prevalence will decrease in southern states, where a good number of Americans have been relocating to in the past few years.

As The Dallas Express recently reported, southern states like Texas, South Carolina, and Florida have become magnets for migrating Americans.

Yet, as The Washington Post found, the rate at which Americans are moving to areas categorized as high risk for hurricanes is alarming, especially when compared to other countries. Americans are moving to these areas at six times the rate of others. 

According to the analysis, South Carolina will see a jump of maximum wind speeds to 37 mph higher over the next 30 years, while the Gulf Coast will eventually see maximum speeds of around 248 mph. 

Kerry Emanuel, an MIT climate scientist and longtime hurricane researcher whose data helped inform the First Street analysis, said the danger lies in the fact that people are not always ready for severe weather.

“Even if the risks are well known, it doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that we are going to be well prepared,” said Emanuel, per The Washington Post.

Further, newly affected areas might not have buildings and infrastructure, or even environments, that are prepared to withstand high winds, which might increase the potential for damage.

In the northeast of the country, affecting states like Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, First Street’s report estimated those affected by high winds to rise by 55%, or about 2.2 million new properties, by 2053. AAL is likewise projected to increase by approximately 87%.

“The risk is shifting. That’s what we are trying to impart,” said ​​Ed Kearns, chief data officer for First Street, per The Washington Post. “Risk is most dangerous when you don’t know you have it.”

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