The 2017 hurricane season was one of the costliest years on record.

There was a total of 17 named storms, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which resulted in over $200 billion in property losses across the U.S.

Hurricane Harvey struck first on Aug. 25, 2017, hitting Texas and causing about $180 million in damages.

According to CoreLogic, approximately 75% of the flood damage to residential properties from Hurricane Harvey was uninsured.

Then, on Sept. 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall on Florida, causing 44 deaths in the U.S. and over $60 billion in damages.

Hurricane Irma alone cost insurance companies an estimated $100 billion total, with over $2 million in insurance claims.

Finally, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, causing the deaths of anywhere between 500 to 1,000 people.

By far the costliest hurricane of the season, total losses are estimated to be about $103 billion, mainly in Puerto Rico.

Subtropical storm Alberto kicked off the 2018 hurricane season a week early, hitting Florida on May 28.

The National Hurricane Center said winds from the tropical storm reached up to 65 miles per hour.

Are Hurricanes Getting Stronger?

Simply put, yes.

A recent study found that hurricanes are strengthening at a much faster pace than they did 30 years ago.

Hurricanes derive energy from high ocean temperatures, so as the planet continues to warm up from natural and anthropogenic climate change, hurricanes will continue to get stronger, deadlier and occur more frequently.

According to a 2008 study published in the journal Nature, warming oceans were responsible for approximately 40% of the increase in hurricane activity between 1996 and 2005, another deadly period of hurricane activity in which Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast.

USA Today Hurricanes Infographic

In addition to climate change, the new study also identified less vertical wind shear, which is the difference in the direction and force of winds at the surface of the water compared to that of wind in the air, as a factor in creating stronger hurricanes.

“The weight of the evidence suggests that the 30-year-old prediction of more intense and wetter tropical cyclones is coming to pass. This is a risk that we can no longer afford to ignore,” wrote the authors of the study.

Hurricane Season: What to Expect This Year

In early spring, several weather organizations warned that the 2018 hurricane season could be worse than the last.

Tropical meteorologists from Colorado State University issued the following forecast in early April:

We anticipate that the 2018 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have slightly above- average activity. The current weak La Niña event appears likely to transition to neutral ENSO over the next several months, but at this point, we do not anticipate a significant El Niño event this summer/fall. The western tropical Atlantic is anomalously warm right now, while portions of the eastern tropical Atlantic and far North Atlantic are anomalously cool. Consequently, our Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation index is near its long-term average. We anticipate a slightly above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

More recently, however, many experts have changed their minds.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say the 2018 hurricane season will be more normal, predicting a 70% likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms and less than five major hurricanes.

NOAA 2018 Hurricane Season Infographic

These organizations note, however, that although predictive technology can provide an idea of what is to come, there is still no way to predict weather patterns with 100% accuracy.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

When a hurricane hits, it can bring high winds, heavy rainfall, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and even tornadoes. Storm surge produced by hurricanes poses the greatest threat to life and property along the coast.

The destructive power of storm surge can travel several miles inland, and large battering waves can result in loss of life, buildings destroyed and road and bridge damage along coastal areas.

This is why if you live in an area where hurricanes are a threat, you need to know where you’d go before the danger arrives and makes evacuation impossible.

Here are some simple steps you can take today to prepare for hurricane season:

Assess your risk. Look up your address in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center to determine your level of risk during hurricane season.

Get flood insurance. Consider getting a flood insurance policy if you live in an at-risk area during hurricane season. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies can be bought through thousands of insurance agents nationwide. You may also be able to purchase flood insurance through your homeowners or renters insurance company. As FEMA spokesman John Mills said, “Insurance is really your first line of defense. Insurance can help people rebuild and rebuild faster.”

Protect your home. Your second line of defense against a hurricane is your home, so take the necessary steps to protect it by installing shutters to doors and windows, trimming trees that could cause property damage, making sure windows and doors are secured and the caulking is in good shape, inspecting your roof for signs of wear or damage and making sure sump pumps, drains and generators are in working order.

Know your evacuation zone. Evacuation zones are areas that may be impacted by hurricane flooding. Many communities have designated evacuation zones and routes to get citizens to safety. This information can often be found on the website of your state, county, or town emergency management offices. If a hurricane threatens your community and local officials say it’s time to evacuate, don’t wait. 

Make a plan. Talk with your family members about how you will contact one another in an emergency. Know how you will check in with family members in different locations, how you will care for children or family members with special needs and how your family will get in touch if cell phone, internet or landlines don’t work.

You should also have a plan for what to do with your pets during an emergency. Many local shelters do not permit pets, but laws require them to accept service animals. Know what you will do with your pet if you need to evacuate your home.

Gather emergency supplies. A ‘go kit’ is a bag that contains basic items you and your family may need during an emergency. Kits should contain non-perishable food, water and other supplies such as flashlights, local maps and a battery-powered radio.

The best way to mitigate risk this summer is to prepare now and know what you’re going to do in the event of a hurricane.

Planning ahead gives you more options and better control over situations that could become chaotic at the last moment if you’re not ready. 

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