It's safe to say that most businesses in the U.S. made it through the summer of 2016 without incident. To these organizations, congratulations are in order. Next time, they may not be so fortunate, which is reason enough to establish a disaster recovery plan, but also because major disasters seem to be on the rise again after a lengthy stretch of limited activity, according to newly released data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Between May 1 and Aug. 30, there were four violent weather happenings that resulted in at least $1 billion in damage estimates, NOAA recently documented. The first occurred in May when tornadoes tore through portions of the plains and central U.S. Less than a month later, West Virginia experienced massive flooding that displaced thousands of homeowners and businesses, resulting in losses in excess of $1 billion. Severe weather also ripped through the Mountain West and Northeast in July, and the Gulf Coast closed out the troublesome trend with $10 billion in damages mid-August after flooding not only rivaled, but surpassed Hurricane Katrina's impact.
One dozen billion-dollar disasters thus far
With more than two months remaining in the year, 12 billion-dollar weather disasters have taken place in 2016, killing 68 people and causing damages of close to $27 billion, NOAA reported. The even dozen represents the second-largest number of environmental disasters over a nine-month period and is the new record for inland flooding events within a calendar year.
Hurricane activity tends to increase in the closing months of the hurricane season. Over the past decade, not a single Category 3 storm has hit the U.S. mainland. The National Hurricane Center defines hurricanes as "major" if they have sustained gusts of at least 111 miles per hour, as this speed is forceful enough to destroy homes and businesses, even uproot trees.
At its peak, Hurricane Matthew was a Category 5, but by the time it reached the Atlantic coast, it was downgraded to a Category 1. Regardless, it was the second hurricane to hit the Gulf since Hermine, which happened in September. Before that, the most recent one to affect Florida was in 2005 when Wilma roared ashore shortly after Katrina.
Well over a million homes and businesses were without power when Matthew hit the region, leading to storm surge levels nearly 10 feet above what is typical, according to The Weather Channel.
Louis Uccellini, director of the U.S. National Weather Service, told The Associated Press that the extreme theme has hopefully raised alarm bells for property owners who are improperly prepared.
"It is representing I think a notch up for the impacts we have had to deal with," Uccellini explained, citing other major environmental disasters that have occurred in the Far East, such as Typhoon Nepartak that was responsible for over 100 deaths throughout Asia.
Florida back in Mother Nature's crosshairs
Climatologists have maintained that the dearth of tropical weather events prior to 2016 has been abnormal and should not be considered the rule. Gulf Coast residents and businesses may want to redouble their efforts to prepare for what Mother Nature churns up henceforth. This is particularly true for Floridians, warned Adam Podlaha, who heads the catastrophe modeling firm Impact Forecasting.
"After more than a decade without a landfalling hurricane, Hermine has highlighted the potential risks faced by the state of Florida," Podlaha said. "The past 11 years have been unusually inactive for the state, but it was a matter of time before it was faced with a landfalling event given the state's longer-term historical trends."
He added that with coastal populations on the rise, there's never been a more important time for property owners to prepare for worst-case scenarios and realize that their nearness to the ocean makes increases their vulnerability to flooding and other violent weather developments.
The experts at Continuity Centers can outfit businesses with the reinforcements they need to stay up and running when Mother Nature throws them a curveball. Weather by definition is changeable, but with a disaster recovery plan in place, business owners can implement a system of predictability that's needed for normalcy inside when the reality is anything but outside.