The Atlantic Hurricane Season Has Started

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 this year, so it’s just started. If past is prologue, the 2021 hurricane season could result in a lot of damage to coastal areas.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2020, one of the busiest hurricane seasons the United States had major impacts particularly along the Gulf Coast.

Coastline counties of the United States are defined as counties within the 50 states and the District of Columbia that are adjacent to coastal water or territorial sea. The coastline counties are grouped into three coastline regions: the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific regions.

About 94.7 million people lived in the 255 coastline counties in 2017, or about 29.1 percent of the total U.S. population of 325.7 million.

The Atlantic was the most populous of the coastline regions, with about 44.4 million people, followed by the Pacific (34.4 million), and the Gulf of Mexico (15.8 million). About 70.9 percent (232.1 million) of the U.S. population lived in noncoastline counties.

Although the Gulf of Mexico was the smallest of the coastline regions, it was also the fastest growing between 2000 and 2017, adding more than 3 million people for an increase of 26.1 percent—more than 10 percentage points higher than the U.S. growth rate of 15.7 percent over the same period.

Harris County, TX, which had the largest numeric gain of any county in the United States over the period, played a noteworthy role in the Gulf of Mexico region’s growth rate.

The United States had a higher percentage of its population under age 25 compared to coastline counties. For coastline counties, a higher percentage of the population fell between the ages of 25 and 54 compared to the United States as a whole.

This held true for both the male and female populations. The percentage of the population aged 85 and older was also higher for coastline counties than for the United States across both sexes.

Among the coastline regions, the Gulf of Mexico had the highest percentage of its workforce employed in construction industries (8.5 percent), consistent with the area’s high rate of population growth.

Similar to the industry data findings, the Gulf of Mexico had the highest percentage of its employed residents in “Natural resources, construction, and maintenance” occupations (10.8 percent vs. 8.9 percent for the United States).

The population in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions—those most vulnerable to hurricanes—increased from 51.9 million in 2000 to 60.2 million in 2017 (8.3 million, or 16.0 percent).

The population in these regions grew every year during the period, with the exception of 2005 to 2006, a year marked by an intense hurricane season that included three of the costliest hurricanes on record (Katrina, Rita, and Wilma).

Of note, Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $91.8 billion in damages in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017, but is not shown on the charts below as it did not make landfall in the continental United States.

From 2000 to 2017, 13 hurricanes that made landfall in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastline counties caused more than $600 billion in damage in the United States. Seven of those hurricanes occurred in two successive years, 2004 and 2005.

These included Hurricane Katrina, which caused $165 billion in damages.

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