P!Npoints: Hurricane damage shows wide variance in Caribbean

P!Npoints: Hurricane damage shows wide variance in Caribbean

P!N’s Web Editor Josh Kastrinsky explores stats and historical data that help us understand how severe storms impact the United States versus the Caribbean

With hurricane season beginning June 1 for U.S. cities, Caribbean islands and Latin America, residents are beginning to stock up on supplies and preparing for potential severe storm strikes. Recent trends have shown damage can be widespread, if somewhat geographically unpredictable, during hurricane season.

A historical look at hurricanes causing major damage from 2005-08 as tracked by the National Hurricane Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows that costs of those storms are borne differently for the United States and Caribbean and Latin American nations. American damage figures, in dollars, are often higher, but recent hurricanes have more often caused deaths when making landfall in island and Latin coastal nations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

While the “costs” of tropical storms and hurricanes can be interpreted differently, figures for human lives lost, as well as infrastructure and agricultural land damage, have been recorded for major storms in the Atlantic.

NOAA estimates that hurricanes cause an average of $5.1 billion in damage and cause 20 deaths in an average year in the United States. In 2008, NOAA estimated that hurricanes and tropical storms caused 11 fatalities and 24 injuries, creating more than $7.5 billion in property and crop damage. This was a sharp rise from 2006 and 2007, when hurricanes and tropical storms were estimated to have caused one death and 14 injuries combined over two seasons (with less than $480 million in estimated damage).

These numbers pale in comparison to 2005, best known for the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Damage from the hurricane was estimated at $125 billion, according to NOAA figures, with the storm claiming more than 1,800 lives.

Other major storms impacting US and Caribbean coastal zones:

Dennis (2005) – In 2005, Hurricane Dennis caused 16 deaths in Cuba and 25 in Haiti. Damage in Cuba was estimated at $1.4 billion USD (120,000 houses destroyed), and Dennis was the deadliest storm for the nation since 1963, according to NOAA. Nine American deaths were reported across Florida, Mississippi and Georgia, and estimates of insured losses were between $1 and $1.5 billion.

Emily (2005) – Hurricane Emily was responsible for six deaths in Haiti and one in Mexico, with the latter country sustaining major flooding damage to homes and agricultural fields.

Wilma (2005) – The deadly 2005 season included Hurricane Wilma, which left more than 300,000 people homeless and led to seven deaths in Mexico. The storm led to 10 deaths in Florida, where it caused more than $6 billion in insured losses in the state, according to NOAA.

Ernesto (2006) – Hurricane Ernesto was the first hurricane-strength storm during a relatively subdued 2006 season. It led to two deaths in Haiti and six in the United States.

Noel (2007) – Hurricane Noel did not make direct landfall in the United States, but caused 148 deaths among Caribbean nations. Damage was particularly pronounced in the Dominican Republic.

Gustav (2008) – Hurricane Gustav led to nearly 100 deaths during its course, mostly in Haiti, according to NOAA.

Hanna (2008) – Hurricane Hannah caused 536 deaths between Haiti and the United States, with major flooding in Haiti but only minor storm damage reported in the United States.

Ike (2008) – Hurricane Ike caused major disruptions for Gulf Coast oil companies and caused at least seven deaths ion Cuba and is attributed to about 40 storm deaths in the United States, according to NOAA.

Paloma (2008) – Hurricane Paloma, the first Category 4 storm in November since 2001, caused $1.4 billion in damage to Caribbean nations, including Cuba and the Cayman Islands.