"A Record Year for Disasters—And Promises of Federal Help"

"Last week, when President Obama named New Jersey a federal disaster area for floods that came before Hurricane Irene, he cemented 2011’s ranking as the United States’ most disaster-prone year ever."

"Through the third week of September, Obama had issued 84 federal disaster declarations at the request of governors. That is more declarations than in any year since the score was first kept six decades ago. And there are still three months left in 2011.

Much of the reason for this year’s record, of course, is bad weather. Damage included virtually unheard of cold spells in Oklahoma, dozens of tornadoes in Alabama, rising rivers threatening towns throughout the Midwest, drought-fueled wildfires in Texas and Hurricane Irene, which soaked nearly the entire Eastern seaboard.

Still, bad weather does not tell the whole story. Scholars and experts suggest many other reasons for the recent surge: Suburban sprawl is pushing people into more places, increasing the likelihood that storms will hit populated areas. A larger share of the population now lives closer to the coasts than a generation ago, increasing the damage when a hurricane comes ashore. Global warming may even play a role. "

Daniel C. Vock reports for Pew's Stateline September 26, 2011.

Source: Stateline, 09/27/2011