An analysis of coastal and inland fatalities in landfalling US hurricanes

Abstract

Improvements in hurricane forecasts allowing for more timely evacuations from storm-surge zones are credited with reducing lethality of US landfalling hurricanes. The deadly reach of a hurricane, however, is not limited to storm-surge zones. About 80% of direct US hurricane fatalities since 1970 occurred outside of landfall counties, with most of these fatalities caused by inland flooding. We construct a geographic information system database combining the location and cause of fatalities, estimated wind speeds, and rainfall amounts for the entire track of the storm for landfalling US hurricanes between 1970 and 2007. We analyze the determinants of total fatalities and deaths due to freshwater drowning and wind. Inclusion of inland fatalities results in no downward trend in lethality over the period, in contrast to prior research. Local storm conditions significantly affect lethality, as one-inch and one-knot increases in rainfall and wind increase total fatalities by 28 and 4%. Rainfall significantly increases freshwater-drowning deaths and is insignificant for wind deaths, while the opposite relation holds for wind speed. While coastal counties do not exhibit a significantly higher amount of lethality risk versus inland counties for total or wind-driven fatalities, freshwater-drowning fatalities occur most frequently in inland counties along the center of the storm path and its outer county tiers as we have defined them.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Notes

  1. 1.

    Missing data necessitated the exclusion of Hurricanes Celia (1970), Emily (1993), Gustav (2002), Alex (2004), Dennis (2005), and Ophelia (2005).

  2. 2.

    These are Dennis (1981), Dennis (1999), Gabrielle (2001), Gilbert (1988), Gordon (1994), Gordon (2000), Isidore (2002), Kyle (2002), and Mitch (1998).

  3. 3.

    An indirectly affected county is “a county/parish/borough that experienced fringe affects” (NHC Re-Analysis Project 2008a, b).

  4. 4.

    For the 9 storms that made landfall as a tropical storm included in this analysis, explicit county strikes are not available from the re-analysis project. For these storms, affected landfall counties are limited to the primary coastal counties for the affected landfall states identified in the re-analysis project (NHC Re-Analysis Project 2008b).

  5. 5.

    Seventy-five of the 194 fatalities occurring in known counties outside of our constructed swath were from three storms—Agnes 1972 (58%), Floyd 1999 (12%), and Chantal 1989 (5%). These missing data are mainly associated with the portion of the hurricane being over water, which we excluded. Roughly 15% of the 194 missing fatalities can be attributed to the swath overland plausibly not being large enough. The remaining 10% is attributed to fatalities that occurred very far from the point of landfall, e.g., Dennis in 1999 had 3 fatalities associated with Florida coastal counties, while landfall occurred in North Carolina.

  6. 6.

    The county was identified for 194 fatalities excluded from our analysis due to distance from the storm path, and the cause of death was identified for 156 of these fatalities. The most common cause for these excluded fatalities is freshwater drowning (72%).

  7. 7.

    Personal communication with James Franklin of the NHC.

  8. 8.

    We verified this by calculating wind radii across the different hurricane category wind speed levels from the models developed in Kaplan and Demaria (1995), Gray and Klotzbach (2005), and Nordhaus (2006).

  9. 9.

    An inverse distance-weighted interpolation scheme was also conducted and compared with the results of the kriging interpolation methodology.

References

  1. AMS (1973) Policy statement of the American Meteorological Society on hurricanes. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 54:46–47

    Google Scholar 

  2. Anbarci N, Escaleras M, Register CA (2005) Earthquake fatalities: the interaction of nature and political economy. J Public Econ 89:1907–1933

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Atallah E, Bosart L, Aiyyer A (2007) Precipitation distribution associated with landfalling tropical cyclones over the Eastern United States. Mon Weather Rev 135:2185

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bell K, Ray P (2004) North Atlantic hurricanes 1977–99: surface hurricane-force wind radii. Mon Weather Rev 132(5):1167–1189

    Google Scholar 

  5. Blake E, Rappaport E, Landsea C (2007) The deadliest, costliest, and most intense United States tropical cyclones from 1851 to 2006 (And Other Frequently Requested Hurricane Facts), NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS TPC-5

  6. Cameron AC, Trivedi PK (1998) Regression analysis of count data. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  7. Costanza R, Perez-Maqueo O, Martinez L, Sutton P, Anderson S, Mulder K (2008) The value of coastal wetlands for hurricane protection. Ambio 37(4):241–248

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Czajkowski J, Kennedy E (2010) Fatal tradeoff? Toward a better understanding of the costs of not evacuating from a hurricane in landfall counties. Popul Environ 31(1–3):121–149

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Deryugina T (2011) The dynamic effects of hurricanes in the US: the role of non-disaster transfer payments. MIT working paper. http://econ-www.mit.edu/grad/tatyanad/research

  10. Elsberry R (2002) Predicting hurricane landfall precipitation: optimistic and pessimistic views from the symposium on precipitation extremes. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 83(9):1333–1339

    Google Scholar 

  11. Gall M, Borden K, Cutter S (2009) When do losses count? Six fallacies of natural hazards loss data. Am Meteorol Soc 10:799–809

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gray W, Klotzbach P (2005) United States landfalling hurricane probability project—methodology documentation. http://www.e-transit.org/hurricane/welcome.html

  13. Guha-Sapir D, Hargitt D, Hoyois P (2004) Thirty years of natural disasters 1974–2003: the numbers. Presses Universitaires de Louvain. Web

  14. HPC, 2009: Roth D (1970–2007). Tropical cyclone rainfall dataset, Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. Retrieved from http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/tcrainfall.html

  15. Kahn M (2005) The death toll from natural disasters: the role of income, geography, and institutions. Rev Econ Stat 87(2):271–284

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Kaplan J, DeMaria M (1995) A simple empirical model for predicting the decay of tropical cyclone winds after landfall. J Appl Meteorol 34(11):2499–2512

    Google Scholar 

  17. Kaplan J, DeMaria M (2001) On the decay of tropical cyclone winds after landfall in the New England area. J Appl Meteorol 40(2):280–286

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kellenberg D, Mobarak AM (2008) Does rising income increase or decrease damage from natural disasters. J Urb Econ 63(3):788–802

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kimball S, Mulekar M (2004) A 15-year climatology of North Atlantic tropical cyclones. Part I: size parameters. J Clim 17(18):3555–3575

    Google Scholar 

  20. Knight D, Davis R (2007) Climatology of tropical cyclone rainfall in the Southeastern United States. Phys Geogr 28(2):126–147

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Konrad C (2001) The most extreme precipitation events over the Eastern United States from 1950 to 1996: considerations of scale. J Hydrometeorol 2:309–325

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Konrad C, Meaux M, Meaux D (2002) Relationships between tropical cyclone attributes and precipitation totals: considerations of scale. Int J Climatol 22:237–247

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kruk M, Gibney E, Levinson D, Squires M (2010) The climatology of inland winds from tropical cyclones in the Eastern United States. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 49(7):1538–1547

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Kunkel K, Pielke R, Changnon S (1999) Temporal fluctuations in weather and climate extremes that cause economic and human health impacts: a review. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 80(6):1077–1098

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Long JS, Freese J (2006) Regression models for categorical dependent variables using Stata. Stata Press Publication, College Station

    Google Scholar 

  26. Matyas C (2010) Associations between the size of hurricane rain fields at landfall and their surrounding environments. Meteorol Atmos Phys 106:135–148

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. MMC (Multihazard Mitigation Council) (2005) Natural hazard mitigation saves: an independent study to assess the future savings from mitigation activities. National Institute of Building Sciences, Washington D.C.

    Google Scholar 

  28. NHC Re-Analysis Project (2008a) U.S. landfalls—county by county hurricane strikes (1900–2010). http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/Data_Storm.html

  29. NHC Re-Analysis Project (2008b) U.S. landfalls—U.S. tropical storms (1851–1930, 1983–2010). http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/uststorms1851-1930&1983-2010-mar11.html

  30. NOAA Coastal Services Center (2008) http://maps.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes/index.htm

  31. Nordhaus W (2006) The economics of hurricanes in the United States

  32. Peacock W, Brody S, Highfield W (2004) Hurricane risk perception among Florida’s single family homeowners. Landsc Urb Plan 73(2):120–135

    Google Scholar 

  33. Pielke RA, Gratz J, Landsea CW, Collins D, Saunders MA, Musulin R (2008) Normalized hurricane damage in the United States: 1900–2005. Nat Hazards Rev 9(1):29–42

    Google Scholar 

  34. Price G (2008) Hurricane Katrina: was there a political economy of death? Rev Black Polit Econ 35(4):163–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Rappaport E (2000) Loss of life in the United States associated with recent Atlantic tropical cyclones. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 81(9):2065–2073

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Sadowski N, Sutter D (2005) Hurricane fatalities and hurricane damages: are safer hurricanes more damaging? South Econ J 72(2):422–432

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Shultz J, Russell J, Espinel Z (2005) Epidemiology of tropical cyclones: the dynamics of disaster, disease, and development. Epidemiol Rev 27:21–35

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Tschoegl L, Below R, Guha-Sapir D (2006) An analytical review of selected data sets on natural disasters and impacts. Paper prepared for UNDP/CRED workshop on improving compilation of reliable data on disaster occurrence and impact, Bangkok, Thailand

  39. Willoughby H, Rappaport E, Marks F (2007) Hurricane forecasting: the state of the art. Nat Hazards Rev 8(3):45–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Zandbergen P (2009) Exposure of US counties to Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes, 1851–2003. Nat Hazards 48:83–99

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeffrey Czajkowski.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Czajkowski, J., Simmons, K. & Sutter, D. An analysis of coastal and inland fatalities in landfalling US hurricanes. Nat Hazards 59, 1513–1531 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-011-9849-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Hurricanes
  • Fatalities
  • Freshwater drowning
  • Rainfall
  • Wind field

JEL Classifications

  • Q54