Storms, heat, and rain are a part of daily life. We can watch the weather channel in the morning, or read the forecast on our smartphones to decide if we should bring an umbrella to school or turn up the air conditioning at home. These types of weather events usually don’t bother us too much; we can prepare for them easily.
What makes an Extreme?
Extreme events are weather events that happen infrequently, but with more intensity than average for a specific location or season. Twelve inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period, a heat wave that lasts more than 2 days, or a category 5 hurricane are all examples of extreme weather events. The higher intensity and longer duration of these types of events can radically affect our daily lives. Storm surge and heavy rainfall can flood homes and businesses, damage roads, and overwhelm sewage treatment facilities. Severe flooding may even result in loss of life. Extended heat waves require more energy use to cool homes and buildings, increasing electricity bills for residents and businesses. The risk of heat-stroke, heat-related illnesses, or death can also increase during heat waves.
Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.
Cost to Communities
Extreme weather events can be very costly for communities. Not only from the damage caused during the event, but in the aftermath, there can be economic losses to tourism, jobs, and businesses. Between 1980 and 2016, severe storms in the US caused $175.1 billion in damages. Inland flooding caused $96.6 billion in damages (1). Superstorm Sandy, one of the worst weather disasters in US history, caused $65 billion in damages. While some of that cost was due to structural damage from storm surge and flooding, coastal counties in New Jersey lost an estimated $950 million in tourism spending and 11,000 tourism-related jobs in the year after the Sandy (2). As the climate warms, scientists predict that extreme events will become more frequent, or more intense. Preparing for extremes before they occur can help communities suffer fewer losses and bounce back more quickly.