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The cost of a decades-worth of hurricanes

It isn’t very often than something as immense as 10 years worth of hurricane’s damages can be visualized. But our friends at the Univeristy of North Carolina have done just that with their latest infographic. More than $310 Billion in damages have been caused by landfalling hurricanes in the United States during the past decade, with notable names such as Katrina, Wilma, and in our area — Sandy. Despite all of those names, many major coastal cities have escaped major damage since the early 2000’s. Hurricane Arthur, which made landfall this summer, was the strongest to make landfall since Ike in 2008. We haven’t seen a Major Hurricane make landfall since Wilma in 2005.

Adam Levenson, Community Manager for the UNC School of Government’s online masters of public administration program, said the research and infographic was a team effort. “Both faculty and staff at the School of Government were involved with the ideation, research, and editing processes”, Adam said. “The graphic itself was designed by ObizMedia. Our MPA program trains many students each year, most of whom go on to serve in local government. We had examined disasters from the local level in the past but wanted to see what insight investigating disasters on the macro level would provide.”

And while infographics can be major hub’s for information and graphical data, there are always standout points in the research used to make them. Adam said that in this case, there were two:

“We found two things most striking. First, based upon data from NOAA, 15 out of the 30 costliest hurricanes have occurred during the last decade. However, a major hurricane (category 3 or higher) has not made landfall in the United States since 2005. We expected stronger storms to correlate with more damage, but that didn’t turn out to be true. Second, we were struck by how little funding is appropriated to disaster mitigation in comparison to disaster relief. Currently we spend only $1 in reducing disaster damages for every $6 its spend on disaster recovery. That’s even more surprising when you consider that the Center for American Progress’s finding that there is 4 to 1 return on investments that reduce disaster relief.”  

The question, then, became: How can we as a community begin to improve not only our reactions to the storm systems themselves, but the recovery that occurs thereafter? “As a whole the meteorology community does an amazing job raising awareness and spreading knowledge of hurricanes”, Adam said in a conversation with our forecasters. “Continue to spend time talking about disaster preparation, whether it be on the air or online. The more people understand the consequences of hurricanes, the more communities we can save.”

We would agree.

Here’s the wonderful infographic from our friends at the University of North Carolina.

Created by the UNC School of Government's online master of public administratio​n program.

Created by the UNC School of Government’s online master of public administratio​n program.