East Coast experiences decade-long hurricane drought

Hurricanes, large and small, have eluded U.S. shores for record lengths of time.

Hurricanes, large and small, have eluded U.S. shores for record lengths of time.

As population and wealth along parts of the U.S. coast have exploded since the last stormy period, experts dread the potential damage and harm once the hurricane drought ends.

No major hurricane has hit the U.S. Gulf or East Coast in more than a decade, according to the Washington Post. Hurricane Sandy had transitioned to a post-tropical storm when it struck New Jersey in 2012 and was no longer classified as a hurricane at landfall, although it had winds equivalent to a Category 1 storm.

The streak has reached 3,937 days, longer than any previous drought by nearly two years.

Twenty-seven major hurricanes have occurred in the Atlantic Ocean basin since the last one, Wilma, struck Florida in 2005. The odds of this are 1 in 2,300, according to Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher from Colorado State University.

Growing coastal populations and the lack of recent hurricane activity from Florida to Texas raise concerns about the nation’s readiness.

“Hurricanes are going to hit the U.S. again, and people are going to be shocked by the magnitude of the disaster,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The Associated Press reports that Florida’s coastal communities have added 1.5 million people and almost a half-million new homes since 2005, the last time there was an onslaught of storms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that by 2020 the U.S. coastal population will have reached 134 million people, 11 million more than in 2010.

“Hurricane damage and destruction is a direct function of how much accumulated wealth there is,” Pielke said. “We’ve put a lot of stuff along the coast. If we’re in this 10-year drought, loss potentials in some places may now be two times higher than it was a decade ago.”

Experts are conflicted as to whether residents — after a long break from dealing with hurricanes — will be well prepared when the next storm threatens.