The 2017 and 2018 Atlantic hurricane seasons both saw above-average tropical activity, with several major hurricanes that made landfall in the US and Caribbean. Of the 32 named systems that developed across the two seasons, 18 became hurricanes. Billions of dollars of damages were inflicted throughout the Atlantic basin due to these tropical events.
In addition to the immediate threat to personal safety, flooding events from the 2017-2018 hurricanes caused localized transport, business, and utility disruptions. Floodwaters and related debris rendered some bridges and roadways impassable, impacting overland travel in and around affected areas. Strong winds downed trees and spread debris, which damaged infrastructure in some cases.
As Hurricanes Florence, Michael, Irma, Maria, and Harvey caused significant disruption in the Atlantic, WorldAware was at the ready to keep clients informed of the trajectory and aftermath of the storms as well as provide business continuity advice. WorldAware sent regular email alerts to clients, and the Worldcue® platform provided a visualization of the potential exposure of clients’ people to the storms. We’ve detailed specifics of the 5 most disruptive hurricanes since 2017 below, along with WorldAware’s response and support provided to clients.
Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm, was the fifth most destructive hurricane in the past two years. The catastrophic damage caused by Florence was mostly due to the immense power of the storm and how long it lasted onshore. The month-long downpour from Florence caused heavy flooding in the Carolinas.
Meteorologists had correctly predicted the slow movement of Hurricane Florence and the increased likelihood of catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas several days ahead of landfall. Businesses and homeowners at properties within FEMA flood zones that require mandatory flood insurance coverage had plenty of time to collect important documents and ensure that they were stored in waterproof containers.
WorldAware sent the first alert about the storm on August 30, 2018, before this hurricane had a name. A total of 21 alerts were issued for Hurricane Florence over 32 days. View WorldAware’s Hurricane Florence alerts and corresponding safety and business continuity advice.
From October 7, 2018 to October 16, 2018, Hurricane Michael took shape. The hurricane rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall on October 10 as a Category 5 storm near Mexico Beach, Florida. The hurricane caused extensive destruction in the Florida Panhandle due to the strength of the winds. Travelers, homeowners, and business owners had little choice but to evacuate from exposed coastal areas due to significant surge.
WorldAware first sent an alert for the system on October 6, with analyst coverage continuing through October 31. Intelligence analysts sent a total of 16 alerts to update personnel and organizations on the storm’s disruptions. View WorldAware’s alerts for Hurricane Michael and our analysis of the 2018 hurricane season.
Hurricane Irma was the first in a series of back-to-back tropical systems to have major impacts in the Caribbean during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Since the storm formed near the Cape Verde Islands, it took several days for Irma to traverse the Atlantic and threaten land. Many travelers in the Caribbean likely had ample time to change itineraries because of the forecast guidance. Nonetheless, this Category 5 hurricane resulted in 52 direct and 82 indirect fatalaties, and caused $50 billion in damages.
The availability of intelligence and critical event monitoring enabled WorldAware clients to prepare for and mitigate potential risk to their people and economic losses to their business. WorldAware sent a total of 22 alerts from September 3 to September 20, 2017. WorldAware’s intelligence and response teams also collaborated to ensure client safety. On September 5, WorldAware coordinated evacuations from the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and other locations in advance of Hurricane Irma’s arrival. In the aftermath of the hurricane, a ground team mobilized and worked to re-establish communications and ensure the safety of those still in the region. Read more about the locations affected by Hurricane Irma and the alerts and advice WorldAware sent.
This Category 5 hurricane followed shortly after Irma, lasting from September 16 to October 2, 2017. Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. Post-storm recovery and aid distribution was hampered by logistical challenges, including a failing electrical grid. Residents suffered from multiple island-wide blackouts, and some interior sections of Puerto Rico went several months without electricity.
Protracted power outages were not surprising following the passage of Hurricane Maria. Residents faced hardships in Puerto Rico for months. Homeowners and business owners who were able to prepare (stock up) and have access to generators, fuel, food and other emergency supplies fared better.
Hurricane Maria claimed 3,057 lives and is considered the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since 2004. Because of the cost of and devastation caused by the hurricane, WorldAware continued coverage alerts through Dec. 10. WorldAware intelligence analysts sent a total of 30 alerts to cover the storm’s trajectory, travel disruptions and aftermath, along with providing safety and business continuity advice.
Hurricane Harvey (Aug. 17 to Sept. 2, 2017) made landfall in Texas and stalled over the region for several days. The system produced historic rainfall totals, with several areas receiving over 101 cm (40 inches) of rain in a four-day period. This caused catastrophic freshwater flooding, which displaced more than 30,000 people. The rainfall also prompted emergency dam releases due to overcapacity at lakes and reservoirs, especially in the Houston metropolitan area. Hurricane Harvey was the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage.
Rainfall events like the one that accompanied Hurricane Harvey are rare, but do happen. Organizations who obtained flood insurance, stored important documents and medications in waterproof containers, and heeded all mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the rising floodwaters took the right steps to mitigate their risk. Widespread reports of medication shortages and severe impact to local pharmacies and clinics quickly subsided after the hurricane as the rapid implementation of mitigation strategies was largely effective.
Before, during, and after Hurricane Harvey, WorldAware intelligence analysts sent a total of 19 storm alerts, 5 evacuation alerts, 4 catastrophic flooding alerts, 2 energy sector disruption alerts, 8 air transport disruptions alerts, and 3 emergency dam spilling alerts. Find out how continued flooding affected southeastern Texas in the wake of the hurricane.
Prepare for Hurricane Season
As hurricane season is upon us, stay alert with WorldAware forecasts of tropical activity. Businesses should have up-to-date disaster risk reduction plans. Personnel and travelers should familiarize themselves with the area and local emergency service contacts. Make sure you’ve devised a communication strategy prior to hurricane season (June 1 – November 30) in the event of an emergency.
Find out what WorldAware's meteorologist and Sr. Environmental Analyst predicts for the 2019 season in the new annual report.
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