May 24, 2018

The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again

Boston, MA
USA
by
Sahil Chinoy
,
New York Times
The patterns of disasters, year by year. Image: The New York Times, Small Business Administration
The patterns of disasters, year by year. Image: The New York Times, Small Business Administration

In the last 16 years, parts of Louisiana have been struck by six hurricanes. Areas near San Diego were devastated by three particularly vicious wildfire seasons. And a town in eastern Kentucky has been pummeled by at least nine storms severe enough to warrant federal assistance.

These places are part of a small fraction of the United States that has sustained most of the damage from major natural disasters, forming a pattern of destruction concentrated in particular areas.

About 90 percent of the total losses across the United States occurred in ZIP codes that contain less than 20 percent of the population, according to an analysis of data from the Small Business Administration.

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While natural disasters are unpredictable, the annual losses from billion-dollar disasters, adjusted for inflation, have increased over the last 40 years.

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Climate change is making some kinds of disasters more frequent. Studies show that large wildfires have become more common in the western United States because global warming has made Western forests drier.

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But scientists also contend that climate change is expected to lead to stronger, wetter hurricanes over all. It has also made them more destructive, Dr. Klotzbach said. Because global sea levels have risen, hurricanes create storm surges that go further inland, flooding homes and businesses.