10 Extreme Weather Events of 2016

MAR 22, 2017 | BY PATRICIA L. HARMAN, PROPERTYCASUALTY360.COM

Americans are on the move, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population grew to 323.1 million from July 2015 to July 2016, or about 0.7 percent. The areas with the most growth were the South, with an increase of 4.5 percent, and the West, which grew by 4.6 percent says CCC Information Systems (CCC) in their 2017 Crash Course report.

Among the states comprising what the Census Bureau has identified as the South are Florida, Texas, and South Carolina, which accounted for almost 40 percent of the U.S. population. In the West, the populations in Nevada and Utah grew by more than 3 percent. Why is this significant?

Because areas in the South and West saw some of the most severe weather last year, and CCC Information Systems found that seven of the 10 most severe weather events occurred in the South and West. For insurers, an increase in population in these areas can mean more property and auto claims if the trends continue into 2017.

CCC says catastrophe events in 2016 totaled $175 billion in losses, with $50 billion of those insured — $5 billion higher than the 10-year average from 2006-2015.

Here is a look at the 10 most extreme weather events from 2016, according to CCC Information Systems.

1. Hurricane Matthew
Late last September, Hurricane Matthew traveled a path from the eastern Caribbean and up the East Coast. At one point, Hurricane Matthew was a Category 5 hurricane with 160 mph winds. By the time it made landfall in Haiti and Cuba, the Weather Channel said it had weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane.

The storm killed 49 people and caused an estimated $3 billion in losses, and as of Dec. 7th, the National Flood Insurance Program had received more than 10,000 claims and paid out over $70 million to policyholders. At times, rainfall levels were measured at seven inches an hour.

2. Torrential rains

Louisiana experienced three times as much rain as it received during Hurricane Katrina in mid-August, damaging over 60,000 homes and 100,000 vehicles. Several feet of rain fell in southern Louisiana, leading to evacuations of thousands and killing 13 people. Several days of heavy thunderstorms drowned Watson, Louisiana, with 31.39 inches of rain, White Bayou with 26.14 inches, Livingston with 25.52 inches, and Baton Rouge with 19 inches according to the NOAA. Damages were estimated  in the billions of dollars.

3. Tennessee wildfire

A significant drought left much of the area from central Mississippi to western North Carolina significantly parched. Last November, a wildfire started by arson near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, destroyed more 16,000 acres, killed 14 people, and burned over 1,700 structures. With damage estimates totaling approximately $500 million, it was the worst fire of the year.

4. Snowzilla

Anyone living along the East Coast last January remembers the snow storm that dumped almost three feet of snow from Virginia to New York. After several months of extremely mild temperatures (it was close to 70 degrees in the same area on Christmas day), the storm impacted 26 states altogether, shutting down businesses, airports and schools, and caused 55 fatalities. According to the NOAA, it affected 102 million people and was the fourth most powerful snow storm to devastate the Northeast in 66 years. CCC says economic losses ran between $500 million and $3 billion.

5. Flash floods

Last June, West Virginia experienced what has been called a “one in 1,000-year” flood from a rainstorm. More than 10 inches of rain fell in Greenbrier County — seven inches of it in just several hours. Losses from the flooding were estimated at $1 billion.

6. More flooding in the South

Significant rains were also the source of flooding in March when the Sabine River Basin flooded East Texas and Louisiana. Total rainfall over several days was just under 27 inches and record crests were recorded throughout the area. The Sabine River crested at more than 33 feet in Deweyville, Texas. Estimated losses were placed at $1.3 billion.

7. Houston floods

A month later, Houston, Texas, was the recipient of more than 15 inches of rain in about 24 hours. No stranger to flooding, Houston has had multiple floods over the last several years, but the floods in April resulted in estimated losses of $1.2 billion.

8. Hurricane Hermine

As the first hurricane to hit Florida in more than a decade, Hermine came bursting onto the Florida coast near St. Marks, Florida, as a Category 1 storm. More than 75 percent of the counties in Florida were under a state of emergency during the storm, and CCC placed damage estimates at $800 million.

9. Historic Ellicott City

When six inches of rain fell in less than two hours, it turned Main Street in historic Ellicott City, Maryland, outside of Baltimore, into a raging river that swept people, cars and building foundations with it. This one in a 1,000-year event caused more than $22 million in damages and an estimated economic impact to the area of $42 million, since the majority of the 141 businesses in the area were affected by the flooding.

10. Hail storms

Precipitation was the source of significant damage in Texas in March and April, as losses from hail storms totaled more than $7 billion according to CCC. Billed as the costliest hail storm in the state’s history, more than 110,000 vehicles were damaged. A storm in San Antonio in April caused almost $1.4 billion in estimated losses. Another storm in Fort Worth with reportedly softball-size hail in May did an addition $1.1 billion in damage.

Some blame these events on the El Niño weather pattern. However, increasing temperatures around the globe have also been cited as a reason for a more active catastrophe season.

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