By Melissa Rivera
In July, USA Today published a story
saying that 49 storm and other climate-related disasters (like fires) had taken place in the United States. This was the second-most on record. Munich Re
, a reinsurance company that provided data for the story, said so far, global financial losses from natural disasters came to $41 billion.
The story was published before Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, fires in Montana in July and August, earthquakes in Mexico and Iran, autumn fires in northern California, December wildfires in southern California, and a major December storms that brought snow into south Texas.
And don’t forget human-caused disasters like the shootings in Fort Lauderdale airport, Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs, Texas; terror attacks like the Manchester City bombing; or cybercrimes like the WannaCry ransomeware attacks and the Equifax data breech that will affect millions of people for years to come.
If you don’t think 2017 sent memos to get prepared, check your inbox. Here’s what’s there.
In January and February, winter storms inundated the western U.S., especially drought-stricken California. San Francisco got a year’s worth of rain in two months
. The water did wonders to correct the west’s dire drought. But flooding killed at least five people
and forced evacuations of hundreds of thousands of people, including those below the Oroville dam, where the overflowing reservoir wrecked both spillways. It also caused dangerous winter conditions
, like 174 mph blizzard winds in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Wildfire season also started explosive and early.
“This one in particular has been a longer (fire) season. It really hasn't stopped since the fall of 2016,” Chris Wilcox of the National Interagency Fire Center said on NPR’s Weekend Edition
By March 24, 2.1 million acres had already burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center
Most of the wildfires were in drought-laden parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. More than a million acres had burned in those four states by March 7, thousands of people were evacuated and seven died, according to CNN
Tornadoes, too, were newsmakers into April. The first quarter of 2017 saw twice as many U.S. tornadoes as the 10-year average, Munich Re’s release said
. One storm in January
killed 24. An April 30 storm system killed at least 13 people in the South and Midwest
The subject line from 2017’s first quarter’s memo reads, “Be prepared to evacuate.”
You may have only minutes to react
to escape tornadoes, floods, and fires. So make a plan
Sign up for reverse 911 warnings. Determine how to get to shelter, with multiple evacuation routes. Have emergency supplies, including prescription medicines and copies of important papers, easily accessible. Give every family member tools to communicate in case of separation. Plan for pets.
In April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the first three months of 2017 had brought five weather disasters costing at least $1 million apiece, twice as many
as average and the most recorded.
But Mother Nature wasn’t the only source of trouble. People caused their share too. In May, the WannaCry ransomware attack
locked at least 300,000 computers in at least 150 countries.
People couldn’t refill prescriptions because pharmacies couldn’t access health information. ATMs couldn’t reach banks, so people couldn’t withdraw money. Gas stations closed because their computers couldn’t accept payment.
Remember all that water the west got in January and February? It created a glorious spring burst of lush green nature … that all dried out in a June heat wave
. At least five people died in the southwest from heat-related illnesses
. Temperatures reached 119 degrees in Phoenix and Las Vegas saw at least nine days straight of 110 degree heat
The dry conditions fanned wildfires that burst out in June and July.
In Montana over the summer, two firefighters died, thousands of people were evacuated and more than 1.2 million acres burned
. By the beginning of August, the state firefighting fund had $12 million left and firefighting efforts were blasting through it at $1.5 million per day.
The subject line from 2017’s second memo reads-, “Be prepared with redundancy.”
To prepare for malware attacks
, frequently back up your electronic files on a cloud service or external hard drive. Make sure your software is up to date
and install anti-malware software
To prepare for excessive heat, make sure you have backup water.
a person needs an average of a gallon of water per day, and recommends you store at three days’ worth per person.
Assume you won’t be able to buy water. A broken water main in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, caused a two-day boil water notice. Residents could still use tap water for many things. Trucks could easily resupply stores. Yet stores reported runs on water and empty shelves
On August 21, a solar eclipse
portended the end of the world. No, just kidding. But it was really amazing. However, August 24 also brought Hurricane Harvey
. It blasted south Texas then stalled over Houston. The now-tropical-storm dumped almost five and a half feet of rain in Nederland, Texas over three days, making it the wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. records
. Many parts of Houston saw two and a half feet of rain fall
. Dams breached and engineers opened levees, causing more flooding
Thirty-thousand people evacuated
and 17,000 more were rescued from flooded streets. At least 82 people died
. A preliminary report estimated Harvey will cost $198 billion, making it the most expensive tropical cyclone in history
And that was only the beginning. Hurricane Irma
blasted straight up Florida beginning September 10.
Up to 8 million people
were encouraged to evacuate, the largest evacuation order in the state’s history. More than half the state lost power
. The storm caused an estimated $64 billion in damage
in the Caribbean and U.S., and at least 134 people died.
Then, September 18, Hurricane Maria flattened the Caribbean islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Almost everyone lost power
, water, and communication services.
At least 103 people died
. The hurricane cause more than $103 billion in damage
. Almost three months later, more than a third of Puerto Rico is without power
And Mother Nature wasn’t done. On September 19, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake
in central Mexico killed 370 people, injured more than 6,000 and caused the collapse of more than 40 buildings. It took place on the 32nd
anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed 10,000 people, and just 12 days after another major earthquake in Chiapas, Mexico.
The subject line of 2017’s third quarter memo reads, “Don’t be complacent.”
Two hours before the central Mexico earthquake, many people in Mexico were participating in a national earthquake drill. Some people actually mistook earthquake warnings for a continuation of the earthquake drill, according to a BBC report
. The report suggested the drill helped save lives, because people were thinking about earthquake preparedness. How often do you practice emergency plans? Often enough to remember them?
According to a story in The Washington Post
, attention to emergency plans helped a high school student when a shooter killed 58 people and injured 546 at the October 1 Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas.
Before the student left for the concert, her mother reminded her what to do if there was an active shooter in the crowd.
“Run until you can’t run. Hide until you can’t hide. Fight until you can’t fight,” her mother said, according to the story.
When gunfire began, the girl ran until she couldn’t run. She survived with minimal physical injuries.
Beginning the first weekend in October, wind-driven fires burst through communities
in northern California. At least 40 people were killed, 5,000 buildings destroyed and about 100,000 people evacuated.)
More fires sprang up in November and December, including the Thomas fire in southern California. As of today, it is the state’s fifth largest
. It has spread over 230,500 acres and destroyed 798 buildings. And it’s only 15 percent contained. An estimated 18,000 buildings are threatened by that fire alone.
Last week, a curious winter storm
brought a blizzard to a Buffalo Bills game (sort of expected) and snow to southeast Texas
The subject line for 2017’s fourth quarter memo reads, “Be prepared for the inexplicable.”
No one expects a shooter to interrupt their normal activities. No one expects a fire to take their home. No one expects snow in south Texas. Yet the last few months have seen all three. And more. Get the memos and be prepared for 2018.