In 1947, before tropical storms were named, a major hurricane struck Florida, the most hurricane-exposed state. The 1947 storm brought peak winds of 155 miles per hour and caused the Sunshine State an estimated $775 million in damage. At the time, Florida had about 600,000 detached single-family homes worth roughly $20 billion. In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida with peak gusts of 164 mph, causing an estimated $37 billion in damages. By the time Andrew arrived, Florida possessed about 3 million single-family detached homes worth roughly $500 billion. Housing-stock value was way up, and so losses were way up. And this is a simplified calculation taking into account only single-family detached homes—the value of office buildings, industry, apartments, infrastructure, and amusement parks was also much higher in Florida in 1992 than in 1947. Andrew did roughly 50 times the monetary damage to Florida as did the similar hurricane of 1947. And it’s a fair guess that in 1992, Florida was 50 times more valuable than in 1947.
The case for man-made global warming is weaker than Easterbrook suggests at the end, and the link between global warming and hurricane strength has been deflated by meteorologist Joe Bastardi and the other top minds in the field like National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield. So there’s that.
And there’s common sense: We build more expensive stuff near our coasts, and then we’re shocked! Shocked! when hurricanes destroy more stuff. We consign levee maintenance to corrupt local crony-infested boards and then we’re shocked! Shocked! when levees don’t perform up to the standards that were being undercut for decades.