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Preparing for Washington’s Increasing Natural Disasters

Washington’s disasters increased 165% from the 23 the state saw in the prior two decades (1980-1999). Washington’s increase matched that of the entire U.S., which had an estimated $485 billion in property loss 2000-2017.

by David Rasbach, The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.) / February 3, 2020

(TNS) — The frequency of FEMA-reported natural disasters within the state of Washington has nearly tripled since 2000, according to a recent study.

Between 2000 and 2017, Washington saw 61 natural disasters, according to an analysis by insurance comparison website QuoteWizard, which looked at FEMA natural disaster data for the report.

That tied with New Mexico for the fifth-highest number of natural disasters during the time, the study found, behind Texas (172), California (153), Oklahoma (122) and Florida (66).

Washington’s disasters also were a 165% increase from the 23 the state saw in the prior two decades from 1980 to 1999, the study found.

Fortunately for the state, that was only the 23rd-highest increase in the nation and well behind the 1,350% increase Colorado saw.

Washington’s increase actually matched that of the entire nation, which suffered an estimated $485 billion in property loss between 2000 and 2017, the report stated.

“If it seems like storms, wildfires and hurricanes in the United States get more frequent every year, then you would be correct,” QuoteWizard wrote in its release about the study.

The analysis also found that fires were the most common type of disaster. The states seeing the biggest increase in natural disasters tended to be the fire-prone states, especially those in the west, where recent annual weather patterns have seen long, wet winters that allow foliage to grow and are followed by long, hot dry summers.

“That paired with firefighting practices of containment over the last century leaves forested areas to become like kindling for fires,” QuoteWizard wrote.

Washington saw 1,732 wildfires that burned 438,868 acres in 2018, according to the 2018 Pacific Northwest Fire Season Summary produced by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The report showed those numbers were in line with the 2017 fire numbers, but well ahead of the 10-year-average.

With that fire danger, plus the ever-present threat of a major earthquake and tsunami along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and other potential natural disasters in the area, the Bellingham Office of Emergency Management suggests now is the time to prepare.

The office announced it is expanding a program called Map Your Neighborhood, which enables neighbors to create a shared plan and prepare for disasters by building relationships, trust and knowledge.

To help facilitate the program, the Office of Emergency Management announced it will offer orientations throughout the year. The next two orientations are scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 19, and Thursday, March 26. Both sessions will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Fireplace Conference Room in the Bellingham Municipal Court building, 625 Halleck St., Bellingham.

For more information, email or call 360-778-8443.


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