By Charlotte Mac Kay
The U.S. suffered a summer of massive storm damage, with natural disasters roaming across the country from West to East coast. From wind storms and wildfires to hurricanes, the damage caused by natural disasters over the summer was substantial.
On the East Coast, two hurricanes touched down in the same month. Hurricane Isias struck the U.S. after passing through the Bahamas on August 1, where it followed the coast up through the Northeast. According to the National Hurricane Center, it touched down in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, moving with sustained winds up to 85 miles per hour. The hurricane put thousands of homes out of power and resulted in flooding damage throughout the East Coast, killing at least six from correlated wind and water damage according to the AP News and World Report.
It was closely followed by the stronger Category 4 Hurricane Laura, which landed on the border of Louisiana and Texas in late August, with 150 mph winds churning up waves up to 15 feet high, according to AP News and World report. AIR Worldwide, a disaster modeling firm, estimated that the property damage caused by the storm may exceed $8 billion.
Laura wiped out power infrastructure, utility access and water systems for over 260,000 homes, resulting in approximately 11 thousand people requesting shelter from the state after damage to property and water supplies. The storm killed upwards of 20 people and was compared to the devastating 2005 Hurricane Rita by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. He called it “the strongest storm to ever hit Louisiana,” saying that the state has a “long road” forward to recovery as they set about rebuilding damaged homes and returning utilities and power to their full capacity.
As Laura wrecked the Southeast, wildfires roared through Northern California. The fires were sparked mid-August from a series of lightning strikes that set dry forest ablaze, according to the Californian Fire Commission. Two of the blazes, the Santa Clara Unit (SCU) and Lake-Napa Unit (LNU) Lightning Complexes, are the second and third largest fires in California history. The SCU Complex continues to burn across 391,578 acres of land and the LNU Lightning Complex covers 375,209 acres. As of early September, around 80% of both fires are contained. The Californian Fire Company continues to battle with the fires in “extreme conditions,” according to a press conference held by Californian Governor Newsom. The wildfires displaced tens of thousands of residents, destroyed 2,500 buildings, and took a confirmed seven lives, according to a report from Reuters.
Though the frequency and extent of natural disasters this year is so far record-breaking, forecasts predict that more is to come. For the second time in history, AccuWeather predicts that named storms will exceed the number of letters in the alphabet. The National Hurricane Center says they are “still monitoring four systems,” two of which have significant “chances of development.”
As states across the country work to rebuild and recover from their relative natural disasters, the displacement of thousands is complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Governors of Louisiana and California both expressed concern about the potential increased spread of the novel coronavirus. “We know that every time people are moving around, coming into contact with one another, the transmission of the virus increases. So we’re really concerned about that,” Governor Edwards said in an interview in which he expressed concerns of a future Covid-19 spike, despite the state’s lowering Covid-19 case numbers.