Orrin H. Pilkey column: Lessons from past hurricanes bode poorly for our future

The end of the 2018 hurricane season is a good time to take a step back and see what we’ve learned from recent storms.

In the past two years, 18 North Atlantic hurricanes struck the U.S., five of which were very dangerous by any measure. It is not unreasonable to assume that these powerful storms are the beginning of the “new normal” — the impact of a warming ocean on hurricane intensity.

In 2017, an unprecedented three superstorms — Harvey, Irma, and Maria — hit the U.S. coast. Harvey tied Katrina as the most destructive hurricane since 1900, damaging 130,000 homes ($125 billion) and dumping a national record 60 inches of rain on Houston, a city spectacularly unprepared for flooding. Irma struck eight Caribbean islands, Cuba, southwest Florida, and skimmed past the Florida Keys, destroying 25 percent of the buildings there ($53 billion). Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, causing devastation over much of the island ($90 billion) and killing an estimated 2,975 people.

Things didn’t let up in 2018 as Florence and Michael came ashore, both superstorms in my view.

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