2017 Was the Most Expensive Year for Natural Disasters Ever and We Can Do Better on Damage Mitigation

The numbers are in and the cost of last year's epic series of disasters is as bad as feared: 2017 was the most expensive year for U.S. natural disasters, ever.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates the overall cost of all disaster events exceeded $300 billion. Sixteen individual events cost more than $1 billion each. This is in line with figures also released by reinsurer Munich RE, which reports $215 billion in loss coming from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. And it should be noted that these numbers do not include costs borne privately by individuals and businesses. In total, the economic cost of all disasters in 2017 is three times the loss suffered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.In addition to economic costs, last year's disasters have other effects on society. This is still tragically felt in Puerto Rico where much of the island remains without power. Poverty rates have increased as has unemployment, forcing many to leave the island to seek better conditions on the mainland. While these impacts may not reach the front page of newspapers, their effect can linger for decades.Nature is an unrelenting force that commands our attention. When the inevitable storm strikes, it dominates news coverage for a period but recedes from memory quickly for most people. But to live with nature we must take the long view. And that requires deliberate decisions on where we live and how we build. A picturesque stream beside a home can become a raging torrent of floodwater. The lovely beach cottage will eventually face a hurricane and be destroyed. Mitigation, or action taken in advance of the storm, saves money, property and lives.  Continue reading...

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