TURES COLUMN: 500 year storms are now happening every 5-10 years

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

People should just understand this storm is having broad impacts across the state, and some of the flooding you’re going to see in areas hundreds of miles from where this made landfall are going to set records,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated. He called Hurricane Ian “a 500-year flood event.” 

Yet evidence has shown that these hurricanes are happening quite frequently, and not every 500 years. In fact, Florida has had several of this kind in the last two decades, with Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Michael, etc, just to name a few.

I’ve looked hurricanes ever since I experienced my first in 1988, having moved from the deserts of Texas far closer to the gulf, which generated the first tornado I ever saw. Going to graduate school at FSU, hurricanes became an annual ritual, which soaked us and knocked down trees around us. And it’s only become worse.

Climate change forecasters warned us in the 1980s that hurricanes were going to hit us more frequently, and with more severity. It was a bold prediction to make at the time. After all, major hurricanes were on the decline from the 1950s to the 1980s, as well as the number of hurricanes per year, as my research from the National Hurricane Center weather has shown. But they’ve rebounded in frequency and size, both in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

And these killer storms, capable of costing our country billions of dollars each time they make landfall, are only getting worse.

In terms of speed to ever strike the United States, Hurricane Ian is the fifth most powerful storm ever recorded. Of the 16 strongest storms to ever make landfall, going back to the mid-1800s, seven are just from the last 20 years, with six of the most powerful happening just in the last five years. When it comes to intensity, six of the top 11 happened in the last 20 years. Before the deadly Category Five Hurricane Wilma smashed South Florida, we had never even had a “W” storm before.

The scientific evidence shows that these hurricanes are not just business as usual, or super-rare events.

We haven’t even discussed the death tolls. Hurricane Maria led to nearly 3,000 deaths of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, while another 2,000 lives were lost in Hurricane Katrina. With more people on the coasts, and more powerful storms, we can expect death tolls to get higher, especially as some politicians deny any of this is even taking place. And we can only imagine the catastrophe when a major city gets a direct hit from a Category 5. A government study of a potential “Hurricane Pam” found such a storm could generate 60,000 casualties. 

There’s also the matter of damages, which can rack up charges of several billion each landfall. It’s not just the money as well. If you’ve lost your home to the storm, you lose your possessions and your sense of security, that such a catastrophe can never happen to you and your family. Things are never the same again if it’s happened to you.

As our country took environmental impacts seriously, we saw a historic reduction in storms. When we and third world nations stepped away from such reforms, we’ve seen a rebound in the presence and power of these storms.  Maybe it’s just coincidence. But the consequences are too great to leave it up to that kind of chance.