If you don't count Superstorm Sandy, it has been more than 10 years since a major hurricane struck the coast of the United States. That's good news, of course, for coastal property owners. But it's also cause for worry, argues Jason Samenow of the "Capital Weather Gang" report in a recent Washington Post article (see: "The U.S. coast is in an unprecedented hurricane drought — why this is terrifying," by Jason Samenow).
The hurricane-free stretch is remarkable, the Post noted: "Twenty-seven major hurricanes have occurred in the Atlantic Ocean basin since the last one, Wilma, struck Florida in 2005. The odds of this are 1 in 2,300, according to Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher from Colorado State University." And most researchers agree that the reason isn't some big new climate or weather pattern. There have been lots of near misses; the hurricane drought, experts say, seems to be just luck.
When the next big storm finally does hit, the consequences could be surprisingly severe—not because storms are getting worse, but because more and more Americans are potentially in harm's way. For example: "The Associated Press reports Florida’s coastal communities have added 1.5 million people and almost a half-million new homes since 2005, the last time there was an onslaught of storms," the Post observed. "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that by 2020, the U.S. coastal population will have reached 134 million people, 11 million more than in 2010."
The Post commented on the growing risk during hurricane season a year ago (see: "U.S. coastline vulnerability to hurricanes is growing to unprecedented levels," by John Scala). Noted the paper: "The precarious combination of an aging, growing population, taxed infrastructure and what amounts to an ignorance of threat posed by hurricanes extends beyond Florida (where most of the emphasis lies) to include the entire coastline stretching from Texas to Maine. The major hurricane landfall drought is not only statistically rare; it is a bellwether for rising coastal vulnerability while lulling a growing population into a false sense of security."