Within the US, the track record for deaths from hurricanes tend to be quite low with all hurricanes recorded having a fatality rate of less than two hundred with the exception of Maria (2017 – Trump administration) and Katrina (2005 – GW Bush administration).
|Figure 1: US Fatalities by Year.|
|Figure 2: US Fatalities by Year Log10 scaled.|
|Figure 3: Damages in the Billions by Year.|
Harvey and Katrina are reported to have done 125 billions dollars each followed by Maria doing damage of 91.2 billion, Sandy at 68.7, and Irma at 64.8.
So why is it that Harvey (2017 – Trump), a storm that did as much damage as Katrina resulted in only 106 deaths while Maria a storm that did 25% less damage resulted in a US citizen total death toll comparable to the sum of all 44 other Hurricanes on record (2982 vs. 3609)?
|Figure 4: Total deaths by Year.|
We might attempt to predict which storms might be the most deadly using the storm measurements highest wind speed recorded and lowest pressure recorded.
|Figure 5: Wind speed by US_Fatalities|
|Figure 6: Lowest air pressure recorded in terms of mbar (whatever that is).|
As we can see that Maria and Katrina are both on the higher end of the wind speed distribution and the lower end of the air pressure distribution, we can assert that a more powerful storm is a necessary component for the kind of death tolls associated with these storms.
What factors must be present for a severe storm which otherwise would be associated with a death toll of less than 200 people to being a tremendous human tragedy, such as in the case of Katrina or even more so Maria are yet unknown given the sparsity of data available to the public.
From the data it appears that Atlantic hurricanes have grown more damaging and more deadly for US citizens.
Hopefully, despite the catastrophic blunders of the handling of Katrina and Maria by the Bush and Trump administrations respectively, future hurricanes such as Florence will be dealt with in a more responsible manner.