Recent Weather Disasters Affected 90 Percent of Virginians, May Become More Common

Washington Post
Patricia Sullivan and Jason Samenow

Since 2006, nine in 10 Virginians and four in 5 Americans, have lived through extreme weather events ranging from unusually severe blizzards to torrential tropical storms. A new report from Environment America, tailored to local areas, warns that global warming could lead to similar disasters becoming more common in the future.

The report, In the Path of the Storm: Global Warming, Extreme Weather, and the Impacts of Weather-Related Disasters in the United States, examined county-level weather-related disaster data from the Federal Emergency Managment Agency from 2006 through 2011 and described the possible effects of global warming on future weather extremes.

Number of extreme weather events by county in Virginia. (Environment Virginia) In Virginia, 110 counties and cities where 7.2 million people live were the subject of disaster declarations, the report said. Alexandria alone experienced five major weather-related disaster events. Fairfax and Arlington counties had three or more, including the snowstorms of 2009 and 2010, and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. That storm alone cost four lives from flash flooding and up to $10 million in damages in Fairfax County.

Nationwide extreme weather disasters led to $55 billion in economic damages across the country in 2011.

“Global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather,” said Nathan Willcox, Environment America’s federal global warming program director.

Tony Dutzik, a Senior Policy Analyst at Frontier Group, who worked on the report, noted global warming is projected to bring:

  • more heavy downpours, and heavy snows where it’s sufficiently cold
  • more intense heat waves
  • more intense hurricanes with heavier rains
  • more destructive storm effects due to environmental changes such as sea level rise