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Over 13.4 million properties not currently exposed to hurricane-force wind damage will face increased risk over the next 30 years as climate change propels more intense storms, according to new research from First Street Foundation.
“Compared to the historic location and severity of tropical cyclones, this next generation of hurricane strength will bring unavoidable financial impacts and devastation that have not yet been priced into the market,” said Matthew Eby, founder and CEO of First Street, a nonprofit research and technology group.
First Street’s models also estimated the average annual loss due to tropical cyclone damage rising to $19.9 billion, with about $1 billion in higher exposure in Florida alone.
Other regions that face lower exposure now will be even more at risk in the future, First Street warned. The study projected losses in the Northeastern United States to increase by 87% over the next three decades as hurricanes track further north.
“The northward increase in hurricane activity may significantly impact buildings that have not been built to a code that considers the wind speeds they will likely face over the next 30 years,” researchers said. “Additionally, the count of properties with any average annual loss from wind will increase by about 55%, with about 2.2 million newly-impacted properties by 2053.”
The total number of storms isn’t expected to change, but the intensity will, according to the report. Historical evidence already illustrates rising risk: The proportion of major hurricanes (Categories 3, 4, and 5) has quadrupled since the 1980s, from 10% of all tropical cyclone events to over 40% today. First Street attributed the change to rising air and sea-surface temperatures fueling storms, as well as increased moisture levels in the air and shifts in wind patterns.
“Hurricanes affect communities within the United States more frequently and severely than other natural disasters,” said First Street in the report. “As a result, tropical cyclones have caused a total of $1.194 trillion (consumer price index-adjusted) in losses in the United States between 1980 and 2022, with an average cost of approximately $21 billion per event.”
Understanding evolving risk can help insurers set property rates more accurately, assist communities in developing resiliency plans and allocating resources, and give property owners information on how to better protect themselves and their homes and businesses, First Street said.
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