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    Washington state isn't prepared for climate disasters, study finds

    By Christine Clarridge,

    2024-06-14

    Washington is the sixth-worst state for climate disasters and King is its least prepared county, a recent study finds.

    Why it matters: The Pacific Northwest faces new climate change-related threats like summer wildfires , winter flooding and weather-related power outages in addition to earthquake threats and even potential volcanic eruptions .


    By the numbers: King County ranked 12th among the 50 least prepared places, according to homeowners insurance resource ClaimGuide's risk assessment of over 3,000 U.S. counties.

    • With threats from wildfires, drought, flooding and severe storms , King County has a risk rating of 99.65 out of 100 and faces anticipated annual losses of $774 million, per the study.
    • Washington had 88 disaster declarations between 2014 and 2024 and an average annual loss of over $2 billion per year in damage, according to the analysis.

    What they're saying: "Swinging from flooding and landslides to 2021's deadly 'heat dome,' where temperatures rose to nearly 30 degrees above average, Washington state is perennially grappling with at least a few climate-related events each year," the report's authors wrote.

    Stunning stats: Nationwide, there were 28 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that collectively caused $92.9 billion in damage last year, per ClaimGuide's analysis.

    • Natural disasters causing at least $1 billion in damage nearly tripled in Washington state over the last 20 years.

    The fine print: ClaimGuide's analysis determined overall risk scores based on 18 natural hazards from FEMA's National Risk Index and NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

    • Additional key metrics include expected annual loss, community resilience and social vulnerability.

    The big picture: Washington is among nine states (including California, Colorado and Louisiana) where American National Group, an insurance company owned by Brookfield Asset Management Reinsurance Partners , plans to cease its homeowners insurance business, according to Insurance Business magazine .

    • But unlike California, Washington doesn't track whether insurance companies use wildfire risk scores to discontinue policies, so the full scope of such non-renewals is unknown, according to the Seattle Times .

    Between the lines: A recent survey found that Americans now believe climate change is a major threat and more Washingtonians are looking at potential climate impacts when buying homes.

    Yes, but: ClaimGuide's data also showed that many Americans are not even taking steps to prepare for emergencies that are within their control.

    • 61% say they do not have an emergency plan for severe weather and 52% say they do not have an emergency supply kit at home.

    What we're watching: Washington's coastal communities will bear the brunt of rising ocean temperatures and sea levels, according to the University of Washington's Sea Grant Program .

    • Impacts may include more frequent storms, hydrologic changes to freshwater systems, coastal erosion, flooding and rare but potentially catastrophic events such as tsunamis.
    • NOAA's new interactive map lets users see how Washington could look as sea levels rise.
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