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What Is Hurricane Irene's Economic Impact?


Dog waits for rescue from Hurricane Katrina

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Question: What Is Hurricane Irene's Economic Impact?
Answer: Hurricane Irene hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina on August 26, 2011. It was a Category 3 when it was out to sea, but was downgraded to a Category 2 by the time it made landfall. The last storm to hit North Carolina was Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It was a Category 2 storm and cost $7 billion.

Hurricanes lose power as they travel over land, so Irene became a Category 1 by the time it reached New York on August 27, and a tropical storm by the time it arrived in New England on Sunday. Irene was the first hurricane to hit the Boston area since 1991.

Hurricanes in the Mid-Atlantic states are rare, but often very destructive. That's because they travel over such a densely populated area. Irene killed at least 20 people, and left 4.5 million people without power. Property damage is estimated to be around $20 billion, according to University of Maryland economist Peter Morici, making Irene the fifth costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Total impact to the economy could be as much as $45 billion. That's because of lost economic activity due to flooding and closed businesses. This time of year is important for both the vacation season and the back-to-school shopping season.

Are Hurricanes Increasing?

Weather Services International has forecast a total of eight hurricanes, including four Category 3 hurricanes, and 18 tropical storms for the 2011 hurricane season. This is above the average of 7 hurricanes, (three Category 3) and 12 storms, experienced between 1950-2010. It's even higher than the recent (1995-2010) average of eight hurricanes (four Category 3) and 15 tropical storms.

So far, there have been nine weaker storms this season, which is still two to three weeks away from the typical midseason. This season should be worse than normal thanks to warmer-than-normal North Atlantic water temperatures and very low surface pressures, which are great condition to create hurricanes. Furthermore, there is no El Nino event to siphon off the heat. In addition, there's been a three-year stretch without a hurricane landfall since 2009. The US hasn't experienced such a drought since the 1860s.(Source: Weather Services International, "WSI Increases Its Forecast," August 24, 2011)

What Are the Names of Recent Hurricanes?

In alphabetical order: Agnes (1972), Alicia (1983), Allen (1980), Allison (2001), Andrew (1992), Anita (1977), Audrey (1957), Betsey (1965), Beulah (1967),Bob (1991), Camille (1969), Carla (1961) Carmen (1974), Carol (1954), Celia (1970), Cesar (1996), Charley (2004), Cleo (1964), Connie (1955), David (1979), Dean (2007), Dennis (2005), Diana (1990), Diane (1955), Donna (1960), Dora (1964), Edna (1968), Elena (1975) Eloise (1975), Fabian (2003), Felix (2007), Fifi (1974), Flora (1963), Floyd (1999), Fran (1996), Frances (2004), Frederic (1979), Georges (1998), Gilbert (1988), Gloria (1985), Gustav (2008), Hattie (1961), Hazel (1954), Hilda (1964), Hortense (1996), Hugo (1989), Igor (2010), Ike (2008), Inez (1966), Ione (1955), Iris (2001), Isabel (2003), Isidore (2002), Ivan (2004), Janet (1955), Jeanne (2004), Joan (1988), Juan (2003),Katrina (2005), Keith (2000), Klaus (1990), Lenny (1999), Lili (2002), Luis (1995), Marilyn (1995), Michelle (2001), Mitch (1998), Noel (2007), Opal (1995), Paloma (2008), Rita (2005), Roxanne (1995), Stan (2005), Tomas (2010), and Wilma (2005). (Source: The Moderate Voice, "Fuggedabout the MidAtlantic Quake, Here Comes Hurricane Irene," August 24, 2011)
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