Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The U.S. Likely Just Experienced Its Sixth Billion-Dollar Weather Disaster of 2017

Chris Dolce
Published: May 3,2017

The U.S. has likely experienced its sixth weather disaster of 2017 to have a damage price tag of a billion dollars or more following the historic flooding and damaging storms that struck the South and Midwest over the weekend.
Through the first three months of 2017, the U.S. had already tallied up five separate billion-dollar weather disasters, mostly related to damage from flooding and severe storms. That was the most number of weather events of that magnitude for the first three months of any year dating to 1980 when records began.
"Once all of the damage from the last several (and upcoming) days is completely assessed, it is a fairly safe bet that we're looking at the latest billion dollar weather disaster for the United States. Between the convective storm and flood damage, there have been impacts spread across at least a dozen states," said Steven Bowen, director of impact forecasting at the reinsurance company Aon Benfield.
The final weekend of April brought incredible rain amounts of up to 11 inches to Missouri, resulting in disastrous flooding across central and southern sections of the state. Significant flooding has also occurred in northeast Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Illinois.
(RECAP: Destructive Flooding in Midwest and South)

Flooding in Van Buren, Missouri, where the Current River topped its record set in 1904. (Before: Google Earth Street View / After: Missouri State Highway Patrol)

Floodwaters proved to be too much in Pocahontas, Arkansas, where a levee was overtopped and then breached, resulting in widespread flooding in parts of the town Tuesday into Wednesday.
Record flooding had been observed in 14 locations as of Wednesday and all but two of those were in Missouri. Some locations in southern Missouri shattered record crests that had stood for over 100 years.
Bowen added, "The damage cost will not entirely be to property and automobiles alone. In fact, the flood damage in particular is expected to be costly to the agricultural sector and require governments need to replace local infrastructure such as roads, bridges and weakened levees."
Also factoring into the high likelihood of this disaster costing a billion or more in damage is the severe weather, including tornadoes, that accompanied the weather system.
Seven tornadoes struck northeast Texas late April 29. One of those tornadoes caused EF4 damage and another was responsible for EF3 damage.
(MORE: Second Violent Tornado of 2017)
Tornadoes also touched down in the Midwest and South the weekend of April 29-30 . The National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi, had confirmed 23 tornadoes in its area alone as of Wednesday morning.
The same weather system then went caused significant straight-line wind damage in the interior Northeast region May 1. On top of that, the High Plains suffered damage due to heavy, wet snow from the wintry side of the storm.
(MORE: Winter Storm Ursa Recap)
A final estimate for how much damage this late-April storm caused won't be known for some time, but it certainly will continue to add to what has already been a costly year for weather disasters.
"This year has gotten off to a very active and costly start for insurers, to say the least," Bowen said.
It also follows on the heels of an active 2016, which had 15 weather-related disasters that cost a billion dollars or more. That is the second most to occur in a calendar year since 1980, NOAA says; 2011 holds the record with 16 billion-dollar weather disasters.

PHOTOS: Late April-Early May 2017 Flooding and Severe Weather

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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