September 2017 hurricanes cause near-record damage

September 2017 hurricane season

The Atlantic hurricane season isn’t over yet, and the damage has already caused trepidation among us as we continually watch the news cycle and our social media feeds. While fortunately not all in the familial-sounding list of Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria made landfall, three of the five major hurricanes have hit ground, and the results have been disastrous.

The average number of tropical storms forming in the Atlantic during hurricane season is 12, and this year has produced 13 such storms so far. What stands out is the strength of the hurricanes to date, as major hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria made landfall in heavily populated areas and have caused extensive building damage, massive evacuations and loss of lives. According to AccuWeather:

“Of the five major hurricanes (Category 3 hurricanes or stronger), three of them made landfall in the mainland U.S. or Puerto Rico. Harvey flooded parts of Houston and southeastern Texas; Irma left 6.2 million Floridians without power; Maria destroyed Puerto Rico and left the U.S. island territory completely without power.”

This damage has all occurred in a very short time span. The month of September is already the most energetic month on record of hurricanes in the Atlantic, which as of yesterday hit an accumulated cyclone-energy index of 155.4, breaking the previous record of 155.0 set in September 2004.

The combined destruction of property from hurricanes Maria and Harvey could range from $150 billion to $200 billion, according to a preliminary report from Moody’s Analytics, potentially costing the U.S. economy another $20 billion to $30 billion in economic output. The damage figure so far would make this season the second costliest to date, just behind 2005’s total of $211 billion.

Whether or not these catastrophic hurricane events are signs of a new normal are a matter of intense debate. Climate scientists say rising sea levels and warmer oceans are partly to blame, as well as the overall hotter climate, where the atmosphere holds more water vapour leading to heavier downpours during a hurricane. A stronger monsoon season in West Africa and lack of wind shear due to a neutral El Nino have also stacked the deck.

Regardless of what’s to come, September is a stark reminder to building owners and operators that emergency response and disaster training is not an option. It’s an obligation. What you do or how you respond before an incident occurs can profoundly impact the outcome. Talk to WPS today, and we’ll help ensure your emergency response and disaster training programs keep your residents as safe as possible.