Historical Trends for Disasters – Predictions for 2021


2020 was a standout year for the worst possible reasons, including natural disasters. In 2020, we surpassed 2005's record for tropical storms with 30 confirmed storms with winds over 39 mph and 13 hurricanes with top winds of 74 mph or greater. We also witnessed wildfires that doubled the previous record of approximately 2-million acres of land in 2018. 

Larger and more increased storms are producing soaring natural disaster costs. The U.S. alone witnessed 16 natural disasters by September 2020, which brought damages to at least $1 billion – tying the records set in 2011 and 2017. In broader context, the total cost of U.S. billion-dollar disasters over the last 5 years (2016-2020) exceeds $600 billion, with a 5-year annual cost average of $121.3 billion, both of which are new records.


Historical Natural Disasters – A Quick Overview

Source: USA Today

  • Alaska: In 2015, wildfires burned over 5.1 million acres, making it the second-worst fire season since 1940. 
  • Arizona: Phoenix is one of the fastest-warming cities in the country, and in 2018 there were 182 heat-related deaths. 
  • Central U.S., Oklahoma: Wildfires burned through approximately 466,900 acres of land in Oklahoma in 2018, making it one of the worst fires in the state's history. 
  • East Coast of North America, Maryland: In May of 2018, storms west of Baltimore dropped between 6-12 inches of rain, causing catastrophic flood damage for the second tie in three years.
  • Northeastern United States: According to the National Climate Assessment, the amount of rain falling in the heaviest 1% of storms in the United States increased by 71% from 1958 to 2012 in the Northeast, the most of any region.
  • West Coast of U.S., California: Drought led to major losses in the California agricultural sector, significant environmental damage, and water shortages in some rural areas. 
  • South Florida: According to the NOAA, the maximum daily water levels in South Florida during king tides, the highest tides of the year, have increased since 1994. 

These significant historical events paint a picture of what is possible for 2021 and further. Whether it's a hurricane, wildfire, tornado, or winter blizzard, natural disasters can strike anywhere, and being prepared with the right equipment is essential to saving lives. 

Preparedness with higher quality safety tools is a necessity. While buying lower quality may save a few dollars on the front end, those items often end up wearing out or breaking long before their time. A higher quality item often will last longer and save you money in the long run. Your equipment should be long-lasting, impact-resistant, waterproof, fire-resistant, and able to withstand anything Mother Nature throws your way. 

Read how more intense storms are having an effect on emergency managers

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