Imelda becomes ninth named storm of the Atlantic season

Tropical Storm Imelda quickly organized, formed, and made landfall all today. Imelda was the ninth named storm of the 2019 Atlantic Season. As it’s set to creep slowly north, the storm could drop a dozen or more inches of rain in Houston and Galveston this week. As a result multiple areas are under TS and Flood Warnings and a Flood Watch.

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Dorian Soaking Caribbean, Eyeing Weekend Impact in Florida

Tropical Storm Dorian is moving WNW over islands of the Caribbean, bringing winds and rain for Puerto Rico Dominican next. The storm is forecast to stay a Tropical Storm force over the next several days with the long term path over the Bahamas and towards Florida by the weekend.

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The Mississippi River Levees Could Struggle this Hurricane Season

Mississippi River Flooding

The Mississippi River entered flood stage on February 17, 2019 and remained in flood stage in New Orleans for a record 292 days. In an average year, the river runs around three to five feet deep through New Orleans heading into Hurricane Season. This week, the river just dropped under eleven feet deep. A large hurricane, like Katrina, can add twelve feet to the river depth, which would push well beyond the levee height and cause widespread flooding. Read more

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Season Outlook 2019

NOAA has released the 2019 Hurricane Season Outlook. Here is a summary of what has been mentioned in the release. Based on this report, its beginning to look similar to the 2018 hurricane season.

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Hurricane

Top 5 Deadliest Natural Disasters in The United States

  1. The Great Galveston Storm of 1900

This barrier island along the gulf coast was home to millionaires and large elaborate mansions sprawling the coastline. The highest point of elevation being 8.7 feet above sea level, the community is ripe for devastation from a hurricane.

In the year 1900, this area was struck with a horrendous hurricane that would ultimately destroy the entirety of the community and kill an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people.

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2018 Atlantic Storm Paths

A Look Back at the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season

2018 Hurricane Season Quick Stats

Each spring, several predictive services release their forecasts for the upcoming Hurricane Season, which officially runs June 1 – Nov 30. While named storms can form outside of this range, they are significantly weaker and rarely reach hurricane strength levels.

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Typhoon Yutu

Typhoon Yutu: The Most Powerful Storm of 2018 To Hit a U.S. Territory

On October 21st, 2018, Typhoon Yutu began its development as a tropical depression, east of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth.  Just hours later, the storm reached tropical storm strength over the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. During the period of the next three days Yutu would intensify to a Category 5 Typhoon. Around 2:00 AM on October 25th, Yutu made landfall on the Northern Mariana Islands. Satellite imagery shows the eye of the storm passing directly over the island Tinian (population 3,136), completely encompassing it as the devastation within the eye-wall continued on the surrounding islands of Saipan (population 52,263), Rota (population 2,477), and Guam.  The damage received during the typhoon’s arrival would leave the island communities nearly unrecognizable. Yutu would be recorded as the strongest storm to impact a US territory in 2018, and the strongest to impact the Northern Mariana Islands in recorded history.

Typhoon, Hurricane, Cat 5

This image depicts the Northern Mariana Island chain’s location in the midst of Typhoon Yutu.

Super Typhoon Yutu’s Conditions Upon Landfall in the Northern Mariana Islands

Sustained Winds: Sustained 180 mph, Gusting over 200 mph

Storm Surge: Up to 20 feet

Rainfall: Up to 10 inches

The tone of the statements released by officials leading up to the storms arrival was indicative of the damages that would be seen in the days prior to Yutu’s landfall. The National Weather Service office in Guam released this frightening message before the storms arrival, “Most homes will sustain severe damage, with potential for complete roof failure and wall collapse. Most industrial buildings will be destroyed.” These comments proved to be unnervingly valid once the storm had passed.

After the preliminary aerial damage assessments were completed on October 29th, the figures shown below give insight to just how severe the damages are.

Damage inspection, Hurricane, Typhoon

This figure shows the results of the preliminary damage inspections. Officials conducted these inspections during the first fly over after the storm had passed.

These aerial images released by DigitalGlobe give further testament to the absolute devastation that occurred in the disaster area.

It is estimated that these communities will be without power for months in the wake of Typhoon Yutu. Saipan currently has 99 percent of its community without power, Tinian is 100 percent out of power, and the small island of Rota has restored power to 99 percent of the island.

In the 96 hours after the storm’s passing, 121 storm related emergency room visits were recorded. Unfortunately two lives have been lost from this community during this natural disaster.

Yutu continued on its path of destruction after it passed over the Mariana Islands, its next stop, the Philippines. Even though the storm’s intensity, in terms of wind speeds was not as great in this impact area, the devastation was still staggering. With the Philippines  already saturated with moisture from the Typhoon Mangkhut, the unwelcomed rainfall from Yutu exacerbated the troubles for locals in the mountainous areas of the Philippines. As the storm hit, the rainfall caused massive landslides throughout the countryside. Roads throughout the impact area have been blocked by debris making recovery efforts difficult for the first responders. As the recovery process is continues, it truly paints the picture of how bad these events really are for these communities.

Read further:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/super-typhoon-yutu-destruction-1.4879117

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/typhoon-yutu-philippines-1.4883540

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2018/10/24/category-typhoon-yutu-with-mph-winds-is-set-ravage-us-territories-saipan-tinian

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144137/super-typhoon-yutu

https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/10/24/extreme-category-typhoon-yutu-makes-devastating-landfall-northern-mariana-islands-us-commonwealth/

 

 

Flooding Woes Trending in the Wrong Direction

Back in April we outlined how Flooding is the by far the most common natural disaster and therefore the worst in terms of costliness, death, and destruction. Flooding woes come in many ways too, including long-term swelling lakes and rivers, storm surge and coastal flooding from Hurricanes and Tropical storms, and flash floods from downpours from severe thunderstorms. Last year’s Hurricane Harvey alone caused over 125 billion dollars, mostly from the widespread flooding across East Texas and Louisiana.

More Flooding Woes from Hurricane Florence

Yet another example of the ongoing cost of flooding was this month’s Hurricane Florence over the Carolinas. Five major watersheds saw an average of 17.5 inches of rain over four days, calculated to be the second worst in the last 70 years (second only to Hurricane Harvey’s 25.6 inches). The storm caused widespread flooding across a 14,000 sq mile area across both states. With two of the worst storms in consecutive years, leading meteorologists are blaming warmer oceans, more moisture and slower moving storms due in various ways to climate change causing tropical cyclones to dump more rain.

florence landfall lead to flooding woes

NOAA’s view of Hurricane Florence making Landfall near Wilmington, NC on September 14th

12 counties in North Carolina, where the storm made landfall near Wilmington, remain under varying types of evacuation orders as flood waters are either still cresting or very slowly receding. Consequently, nearly 300 roads are still closed across NC and neighborhoods in cities that thought they made it through the event unscathed are now being impacted. The toll on residents and infrastructure is estimated in the ballpark of 38 billion (and rising), making it the sixth costliest tropical cyclone on record.

Insurance Should Help, No?

Just as after last year’s Harvey impact (125 billion), flood insurance again has been a hot topic. With estimates of a million people dealign with flooding woes across the two states, it’s no surprise that in the aftermath of Florence there’s been a heap of national news coverage on the issue. If you google “Florence Flood Insurance” every article highlights the dire situation and elaborates on the fact that typical homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover most of the people (estimated at 85%) affected. The other 15% have opted in to their insurance plan’s specialized flood coverage or were informed enough to join the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Whether the others are uninformed, can’t pay, or don’t want to pay extra they are now (similar to Houston residents after Harvey) in what these articles are calling a ‘miserable’ fallout situation.

Rescued from flooding woes

Members of the 106th Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, drop from an HC-130J Combat King II aircraft during a rescue mission during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17, 2018.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

Florence, like Harvey, turned out to be less of a wind event and with flood excluded on most homeowner’s policies, experts from the insurer point of view are expecting to deal with a “manageable” and “insignificant” event. Of the $38 billion dollar bill, only an estimated $1.7 billion to $4.6 billion will fall on the insurance industry from Florence’s winds and storm surge (damage from which are covered).


Question: Who will pay for homeowners who want to rebuild their homes then?

Answer 1: The Homeowner

  •  Uninsured homeowners will have to pay out of pocket or get loans from the Federal Government to pay for repairs to their flood-damaged homes. The loans have to be repaid in full.

Answer 2: The Taxpayers (indirectly)

  • The NFIP is vastly under-funded by policyholder revenue and multiple loans and bailouts since Hurricane Katrina have the taxpayers regularly on the hook for billions of dollars in relief.

This New York Times article sums this up nicely.

Flooding affects the US populace, both coastal and inland, every year. Implications from flooding events are statistically worsening whether from continued warming oceans and climate change or something else causing these outlier events to be more regular. Flooding woes like this month’s Florence is life changing for a huge number of people and communities, and unfortunately, it seems it’s but a matter of time until the next one with the same storyline.


Sources

CBS News
NY Times
Insurance Journal
Think Realty
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
FEMA

Hurricane Florence Starts its Assault on North Carolina

Hurricane Florence Current Situation

As of: 2100 UTC, Sep 13nd, 2018

  • Location: 100 miles ESE of Wilmington, NC
  • Size: Category 2
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 100 mph
  • Present Movement: WNW at 5 mph
  • Minimum Central Pressure: 955 mb
  • Impact: Up to 11 feet of storm surge, heavy rain causing flash flooding
  • Incident Page: NHC Public Advisory
  • News Article: WunderBlog

Hurricane Florence Outlook

Hurricane Florence has started to impact North Carolina’s barrier islands. As it reaches landfall, the storm has been downgraded to a Category 2 Hurricane, but don’t let the category number fool you. Florence remains a massive and devastating hurricane. The storm continues to grow in area and is predicted to impact a large portion of the North and South Carolina coasts. Maximum sustained winds are hovering around 100 mph, with some higher gusts. Hurricane force winds extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm. Some coastal areas are already seeing storm surge flooding.  At the peak of the event, areas around river outflows could be dealing with storm surges up to 11 feet. The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras where river outflow will meet the storm surge inundation.  Inland areas are not necessarily in the clear from the damage. Significant flash flooding and prolonged river flooding could extend as far as the Appalachians through early next week as the storm moves inland.

Nearly 2 million people are under hurricane Warning. Authorities are cautioning residents in evacuation zones to get out because first responders will not be able to perform rescues during the storm. Power outages are already affecting around 100,000 people and are expected to get worse as this incident continues.

Click here to look back on this year’s hurricane season outlook to see how the predictions are panning out.

View of the storm path and cone of uncertainty.

 

Predicted Flash Flooding Risk

Hurricane Irma – One Year Later

  • Timeline: Aug 30 – Sept 13, 2017
  • Severely Impacted Areas: USVI, Puerto Rico, Georgia, Florida
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 180 mph
  • Fatalities: 52 direct (wind-driven debris, storm surge), 82 indirect (heart attack, house fires, vehicle accidents)
  • Damages: $64.76 Billion (5th costliest tropical cyclone on record)

Hurricane Irma’s Trek Across the Atlantic

This week marks the anniversary of Hurricane Irma forming and making landfall across the Southern United States. Tropical Storm Irma became a named storm on the 30th of August, 2017. It moved steadily across the Atlantic Ocean at 10-15 mph. A week later, now a Category 5 Hurricane, Irma passed by Puerto Rico narrowly missing it to the north. The storm continued skirting along the northern coasts of the Caribbean Islands including the Dominican Republic and then Cuba. Then, a glancing landfall moment happened along the North Cuban coastline, briefly weakening Irma to a Category 3 Hurricane as it turned north toward Florida.

Throughout Irma’s approach to the US Mainland, forecasts remained uncertain and models were not in agreement. Every update led to questions: would Miami or Orlando would be directly in the path, would the storm would move farther west and trail the Gulf Coast side of Florida, or would it shift a bit more west and come up the Gulf and end up hitting the Florida panhandle? One thing was certain – wherever landfall occurred, winds, rain, and storm surge were going to be affect a lot of people and infrastructure. Hurricane Irma ended up making landfall as a Category 3 Hurricane on September 10th, 2017, just south of Fort Myers along the SW part of Florida’s peninsula.

Hurricane Irma's path across the Atlantic Ocean (Source: WikiCommons)

Hurricane Irma’s path across the Atlantic Ocean (Source: WikiCommons)

Rebuilding Ongoing

While power has been restored and roadways cleared, many areas still see the impacts of these storms. The Florida Keys and much of Florida’s peninsula experienced hurricane force winds, nearly a foot of rain, and around 10ft of storm surge. Cleaning up the wide-spread damage is a daunting undertaking; however, FEMA, charities from around the world, and community efforts came together to assist residents to get their areas back to habitable conditions. By October 1st, much of Key West’s historical district was back in operation and welcoming guests. Nearer the main land, the damage was more extensive. Some businesses and homeowners have chosen not to rebuild and now those that had less significant repairs have vacant lots as neighbors. Each family has to make the best decision for their circumstances and many chose to shift to a new location rather than go through the extensive rebuilding process.

Damaged structures on Ramrod Key, FL after Hurricane Irma passed through the area. (Source: Joe Raedle)

Damaged structures on Ramrod Key, FL after Hurricane Irma passed through the area. (Source: Joe Raedle)

When coming home after a storm, reentering the region, property, and structure safely is important. Ensuring flooding conditions haven’t led to moldy conditions, debris is properly removed, and the structure remains sound are just a few common checks. FEMA and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety shared Safety Guidelines useful to making this process as smooth as possible.

 

Sources

National Hurricane Center, The Weather Channel, FEMA