“Given our infrastructure today, the question is: Was 2017 unusual? I think we answered that pretty well,” said Watson, a modeler at Enki Research. “2017 wins no matter what you do. At one point I was working disasters in Asia, Central America, the U.S., and Ireland. It felt like I had jet lag even though I never left the office.”
As this devastating season draws to a close, here are a few statistics that show the extraordinary strength of this year’s storms:
This hurricane season is “in the top 10 in most of the metrics we use to measure hurricane activity,” Bell said.
And we haven’t even mentioned Ophelia, a “crazy storm” that maintained hurricane strength within 12 hours of nearing Ireland, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was the worst tropical system to threaten Ireland since 1961.
A construction boom along U.S. shores in recent years acted as a damage multiplier this year, when nature threw its worst at beach homes, waterfront resorts, power grids and Gulf Coast refineries.
Watson’s storm costs are based on physical damages, clean-up expenses and lost business activity that isn’t recovered within a year. To account for buildings, homes and factories that weren’t around 150 years ago, his models look at storms dating back to 1871 in the U.S. and 1960 globally, and project the damages they would inflict had they occurred today.
If every hurricane that hit the U.S. in 1893 were to strike now, the cost would be $185.6 billion.
The U.S. hasn’t been the only country feel the pain this year. Typhoons and hurricanes struck countries including China and Japan, Watson said. The totals are a testament to the damage storms that hit major cities can do.
“Megacities such as New York City, Houston, or Miami in the U.S., Tokyo in Japan, or the incredible dense infrastructure around Hong Kong in China, are susceptible to a single event causing in excess of $100 billion in damages,” Watson and Johnson, a professor of statistics at the University of Central Florida, wrote in a study.