The United States has experienced 10 billion-dollar disasters this year alone, and NOAA/National Weather Service wants citizens to be prepared for both major disasters and everyday severe weather threats. Image courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Responding to a year that has costs U.S. towns and cities more than $35 billion in disaster cleanup costs through early August, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in mid-August that it has started a comprehensive initiative to build a “Weather-ready” nation.
On Aug. 17, NOAA officials announced that the initiative aims to make the country safer by saving lives and protecting livelihoods, a goal consistent with the disaster studies and emergency management maxim that every dollar spent in preparedness and mitigation saves at least $4 in recovery costs. In its announcement, NOAA cites communities’ increasing vulnerability to severe weather events, including tornado outbreaks in the South and Midwest, flooding, active hurricane seasons and solar storms that affect electrical and communications systems.
NOAA also announced that the United States has so far this year experienced nine separate disasters, each with an economic loss of $1 billion or more — tying a record set in 2008. The latest event to surpass the $1 billion price tag is this summer’s flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest.
“Severe weather represents a very real threat to public safety that requires additional robust action,” Jack Hayes, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), said during the announcement. “The increasing impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark reminder of the lives and livelihoods at risk.”
As part of its “weather-ready” initiative, NWS will work with government and private-sector agencies to provide:
- Improved precision of weather and water forecasts and effective communication of risk to local authorities;
- Improved weather decision support services with new initiatives such as the development of mobile-ready emergency response specialist teams;
- Innovative science and technological solutions such as the nationwide implementation of Dual Pol radar technology, Integrated Water Resources Science and Services and the Joint Polar Satellite System;
- Strengthening joint partnerships to enhance community preparedness;
- Working with weather enterprise partners and the emergency management community to enhance safety and economic output and effectively manage environmental resources.
The National Weather Service is also planning innovative, community-based test projects across the country, ranging in focus from emergency response to ecological forecasting, to enhance the agency’s preparedness efforts to better address the impacts of extreme weather. Test projects will initially be launched at strategic locations in the Gulf Coast, South and mid-Atlantic, which have experienced headline-grabbing severe weather events in recent months.
According to NOAA, in the past 30 years the United States has experienced a total of 108 weather-related disasters that have caused more than $1 billion dollars in damages. Overall, these disasters have resulted in three-quarters of $1 trillion in standardized losses since 1980.
According to Munich Reinsurance America, one of the top providers of property and casualty reinsurance in the U.S., the number of natural disasters has tripled in the last 20 years and 2010 was a record breaker with about 250. Average thunderstorm losses have increased five-fold since 1980. For the first half of 2011 there have been $20 billion in thunderstorm losses, up from the previous three-year average of $10 billion.
For more information on NOAA/NWS initiatives, visit weather.gov.