Record-Breaking Hurricane Season Caused Up To $65B in Economic Damage
UNITED STATES—December 21, 2020—The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season officially came to a close on November 30 after breaking numerous records and causing as much as $65 billion in structural and economic damage. With 30 named storms (surpassing the 2005 record of 28) and 13 hurricanes (the second-most on record), 2020 was the most active hurricane season in recorded history, more than doubling the average annual number of storms. This year 12 storms made landfall on the continental U.S., demolishing the 1916 record of nine landfalls. AccuWeather estimates the 2020 hurricane season damage from these 12 landfalling storms caused between $60 and $65 billion in combined economic losses to the U.S., according to the Albany Herald.
The 2020 Atlantic season saw six major hurricanes, 10 storms that rapidly intensified, and 10 storms that formed in September alone, the most of any month on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The record-breaking season was caused by several coinciding factors: a very strong La Nina effect in the Pacific suppressed the wind shear in the Atlantic that can prevent and disrupt storms, and an active African monsoon season led to the formation of more storms than usual. Additionally, 2020 saw the highest average sea temperatures on record, and warm water is what sustains and intensifies storms. Because warmer sea temperatures are a factor of climate change, meteorologists worry the numerous rapidly intensifying storms we saw in 2020 could become a trend of the future, according to Bloomberg.
This year, several storms also followed similar paths, leading Louisiana, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras to all experience repeat landfalls, compounding the economic damage in these areas, according to Bloomberg. For example, Louisiana was struck by a record five storms in 2020, including the season’s costliest storm, Category 4 Hurricane Laura, followed by Hurricane Delta six weeks later. Both storms made landfall within miles of Lake Charles, La., where more than 1,000 people are still living in hotel rooms, temporary housing shelters, or even tents as the area works to recover, according to Fox News. AccuWeather estimates Hurricane Laura alone caused $25 to $30 billion in damage and Hurricane Delta caused $4 to $6 billion.
The AccuWeather 2020 hurricane season damage estimates take into account job and wage losses, business losses, agricultural losses, and bankruptcies, as well as coastal damage, infrastructure damage, contaminated water, cleanup costs, and health costs—on top of the obvious structural damage to homes and businesses, their contents, and damaged vehicles, according to the Albany Herald.