RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hurricane Irene left a lot of destruction behind, but total price tag for all that damage is not yet known. Still many of us can't help but compare Irene to hurricane Isabel that struck Virginia back on September 18, 2003. Not only did Isabel cost 10 people their lives-it also caused 1.85 billion dollars in damages-making it the costliest hurricane to ever affect the commonwealth.
Overall, the deadly and destructive effects of tropical storms and hurricanes have been more frequent over the last 15 years here in Virginia. 1996 brought Bertha in July, with Fran to follow just 8 weeks later.
In 1999, hurricane Floyd tracked through southeastern Virginia causing major flooding-- and devastating Franklin. 2003 brought us Isabel with Gaston to follow in 2004. Gaston produced more than $20 million in damage and 9 deaths from catastrophic flooding in the City of Richmond, and now Irene.
The increase in hurricane and tropical storm activity can be partially attributed to the AMO or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. It's a pattern of sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean basin. And since 1995-the water has been typically running above normal. These warm phases often result in more frequent severe Atlantic hurricanes.
It's important to note that short term weather patterns will dictate where these powerful storms will ultimately make landfall. Virginia has had our fair share of hurricane impacts and there is little doubt there will be more storms to come.
The warm phase of the AMO can last from 20-40 years so there are likely to be more active seasons on the way…and we still haven't hit the peak of this hurricane season just yet, that occurs on September 10th. Lessons learned from Isabel, Irene, and the others remind us of the importance of having a well thought out disaster preparedness plan well in advance of the storm.