How Understanding the History of Hurricanes Can Help Us Prepare for the Next Big OneRoundup
tags: climate change, Weather, hurricanes
Eric Jay Dolin is the author of A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes, available now from Liveright Publishing Corporation.
Hurricanes leave behind a trail of devastation. Since 1980 they have accounted for roughly 50% of the cost of all the natural disasters in the United States that exceeded $1 billion in damage. Going back to the late 1800s, hurricanes have killed nearly 30,000 people. And, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is a 60% chance that the 2020 hurricane season, which runs from June through the end of November, will be above-average, with six to ten hurricanes, perhaps three to six of them major.
I have long been fascinated by hurricanes, even though my personal experience with them is minimal and not particularly noteworthy, having lived in New England, where hurricanes are infrequent visitors, most of my life. In 1991 I toured the wreckage Hurricane Bob left in its wake on the shores of Cape Cod, and in 2012 I watched the massive waves from Hurricane Sandy pound the beaches and lead to coastal flooding in my hometown of Marblehead, Mass.
Eager to learn more about these storms, I began to research American history’s most memorable, dramatic and destructive hurricanes. These include: the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which leveled thousands of buildings and claimed at least 6,000 lives, making it the deadliest natural disaster in American history; Hurricane Andrew (1992), which cost $27 billion in Florida, and damaged or destroyed 135,000 homes, leaving more than 160,000 people homeless; Hurricane Katrina (2005), which killed 1,800 people and ravaged parts of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, costing $125 billion, crowning it as most expensive hurricane ever to strike the United States; and Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out power to 8.5 million people, cost $65 billion, killed scores of people, and damaged or destroyed more than 600,000 homes.
Each of these storms was destructive in its own way, and while we cannot stop hurricanes from invading our lives, the tragic history of these storms—the subject of my new book, A Furious Sky—makes it clear that there are many steps we can take to better prepare for and protect against these meteorological wrecking balls.
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