Only 1 in 10 Counties Was Spared Disaster in Last Decade

Report looks at weather-related disasters between 2011 and 2021
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 16, 2022 3:14 PM CST
Report: 90% of US Counties Hit With Disaster in Last Decade
A firetruck drives along California Highway 96 as the McKinney Fire burns in Klamath National Forest, Calif., on July 30, 2022.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Some 90% of the counties in the United States suffered a weather disaster between 2011 and 2021, according to a report published Wednesday. Some endured as many as 12 federally declared disasters over those 11 years. More than 300 million people—93% of the country’s population—live in these counties. Rebuild by Design, which published the report, is a nonprofit that researches ways to prepare for and adapt to climate change. It was started by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the catastrophic storm that slammed into the eastern US just over 10 years ago, causing $62.5 billion in damage.

California, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Tennessee had the most disasters, at least 20 each, including severe storms, wildfire, flooding, and landslides. But entirely different states—Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota and Vermont—received the most disaster funding per person over the 11-year period. Researchers also looked at who is most vulnerable, and compared how long people in different places are left without power after extreme weather. Amy Chester, managing director of Rebuild by Design and co-author of the report, said she was surprised to see some states are getting more money to rebuild than others, the AP reports. Partly it’s that cost of living differs among states. So does the monetary value of what gets damaged or destroyed.

The report recommends the federal government shift to preventing disasters rather than waiting for events to happen. It cites the National Institute of Building Sciences, which says that every dollar invested in mitigating natural disaster by building levees or doing prescribed burns saves the country $6. "The key takeaway for us is that our government continues to invest in places that have already suffered instead of investing in the areas with the highest social and physical vulnerability," Chester said. The annual costs of disasters has skyrocketed to over $100 billion in 2020, said Rob Jackson, a climate scientist at Stanford University. The National Centers for Environmental Information tallied more than $150 billion for 2021.

(More natural disaster stories.)

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