Hurricane Florence’s Price Tag? $30 Billion, According To One Estimate

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Hurricane Florence could cause $30 billion in damage when it smashes into the Carolinas late Thursday, according to a preliminary damage estimate by analysts at AccuWeather.

AccuWeather founder and president Dr. Joel Myers said the high damage estimate was driven “due to its predicted path, which is perpendicular to the coast, rather than at an oblique angle.” (RELATED: Hurricane Florence Sparks Worry Over Nuclear Plants In Its Path)

“This means the east and southeast winds on the east side of the storm are going to be most effective in driving storm surge flooding as the wind and waves pound the coast,” Myers said in a statement on AccuWeather’s website.

Damage of this magnitude would make it the second-costliest major hurricane to hit the Carolinas, according to data from University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr.

Hurricane Hazel, which hit in 1954, is estimated to be the most damaging major hurricane to strike North Carolina and South Carolina, according to Pielke. Hazel’s $36.5 billion in estimated damages have been indexed for inflation.

The Carolinas have not seen a major hurricane landfall since 1996, according to Pielke. Only two Category 4 hurricanes have landed in the region since 1990 — Hazel in 1954 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

When inflation isn’t taken into account, Florence would tie 2008’s Hurricane Ike in terms of damages, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That is, of course, if AccuWeather’s assessment is correct.

Florence is currently a Category 4 strength hurricane, packing 130-mile-per-hour winds, but it’s expected to weaken to a Category 1 or 2 storm before making landfall in the Carolinas. Most of the damage will likely come from heavy rains and flooding, Myers said.

“AccuWeather emphasizes that although Florence will lose wind intensity as it approaches the coast and moves inland, we are focused on the overall impacts of the storm on people and their lives,” Myers said.

“The maximum damage from hurricanes is generally caused by flooding on land,” he said. “Typically, the second most costly aspect of a hurricane occurs along the coast as an angry sea is driven inland due to powerful onshore winds, especially when there is a large fetch and particularly when a storm moves consistently and perpendicular to the coast.”

Flooding and high winds will cause damage to homes and infrastructure, the amount of which has massively increased in recent decades. NOAA warned of the high-risk “catastrophic flash flooding” from Florence.

Villanova University professor Stephen Strader noted a 1,325 percent increase in the number of homes in Florence’s “cone of uncertainty.” Most of this development is inland and subject to flooding, he warned.

Myers is the brother of former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers, whom President Donald Trump tapped to head NOAA. Myers’s nomination is still pending before the Senate.

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