U.S. Sees Record Low Natural-Disaster Activity in 2013

This year we saw a record low number of natural-disaster events in the U.S., despite a few highly publicized storms – such as the twisters that ravaged Central Illinois – according to CoreLogic’s annual Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis.

“Many predicted that 2013 would be a record year of catastrophic destruction, but the number of natural disasters that typically cause widespread destruction – mainly hurricanes, wildfires, and tornadoes – were far less than anticipated in comparison to last year’s record-setting hazard season,” said Thomas Jeffery, senior principal scientist for CoreLogic.  “Interesting, one natural hazard that tends to receive very little attention took center stage in 2013, as three separate sinkhole catastrophes took place in Florida.  Though massive damage and loss of life from sinkholes in uncommon, this year’s events were large enough disasters to draw significant media coverage, raising public awareness of the true risks associated with this often overlooked hazard.”

Here is an overview of natural disasters in the U.S. this past year:

  • Hurricanes:  Hurricane threats were minor this year, with only 13 named storms and two that reached hurricane classification (none of which hit the U.S.).
  • Floods:  Flood damages totaled about $2 billion for the year, more moderate compared to recent years.  The most significant flooding events were in Boulder, Colorado in September which caused damage to more than 19,000 homes.
  • Tornadoes:  Tornado activity this year hit a record low, with 229 fewer tornadoes than any other year in the past decade.  However, the tornadoes that did touch down were “unusually violent.”  A tornado in Moore, Oklahoma that struck May 20 caused an estimated $2 billion in damage and resulted in 23 deaths.  The widest tornado ever recorded – 2.6 miles at its widest point – struck El Reno, Oklahoma in early June.
  • Wildfires:  The number of wildfires this year was lower than 2012 and western states saw dramatically lower wildfire activity than in recent years.  The most destruction this year came with Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire, which destroyed 8,400 acres and 129 homes, as well as Colorado’s Black Forest Fire, which burned 14,000 acres and damaged more than 500 homes.  The Rim Fire, about 100 miles east of San Francisco, was the third largest fire in California’s history and burned more than 257,000 acres but only destroyed 11 homes. 
  • Sinkholes:  Three rate, extreme examples of sinkholes in Florida captured media attention this year.  In Seffner, Florida a sinkhole that formed under a home resulted in a man’s death.  CoreLogic has a database of 23,000 identified sinkholes.  It predicts that sinkhole property damage will continue to be a substantial risk across the nation and for Florida residents in particular.


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