Continuity Emergency Management Environment

Major environmental disasters: March 2017

Impact Forecasting has published the latest edition of its monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that occurred worldwide during March 2017.

View the full Impact Forecasting March 2017 Global Catastrophe Recap report (PDF).

The report highlights the extremely active period for severe weather that persisted in the United States throughout March, as four separate significant outbreaks led to extensive damage in central and eastern parts of the country.

The most prolific outbreak from March 6th-10th resulted in major damage from tornadoes, large hail and straight-line winds in the Plains, Midwest and Southeast. Total economic losses for this event alone were estimated at USD 1.7 billion, while public and private insurance claims were listed at USD 1.2 billion.

The aggregated cost to the insurance industry from the four events was expected to exceed USD 2.0 billion.

Through the first quarter of 2017, the US has seen an above-average number of storm reports.


Meanwhile, Cyclone Debbie made landfall in Australia, prompting flooding that killed 10 people in southeastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The Insurance Council of Australia declared an insurance catastrophe following extensive wind and flood damage, and preliminary data indicated that 35,370 claims had been initially filed, with insurance payouts exceeding USD 310 million. These totals were expected to rise, and the overall economic cost is forecast to be even higher.

Other natural hazard events to have occurred during March include:

  • Separate severe weather outbreaks killed 19 people in Ghana, damaged thousands of homes in Thailand, and caused extensive damage to property and agriculture in China’s Yunnan province.
  • Cyclone Enawo made landfall in Madagascar and claimed nearly 100 lives. As many as 85,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 434,000 people were directly affected.
  • Windstorm Zeus came ashore in France, killing two people and leading to widespread wind damage. Total economic and insured losses were expected to well exceed USD 100 million.
  • Catastrophic flooding – associated with what scientists are deeming a ‘coastal El Niño’ – led to continued damage in Peru and Colombia. More than 100 people were killed by flooding and landslides in Peru and over 245,000 homes and structures were damaged or destroyed. Economic losses were listed at upward of USD3.1 billion. In Colombia, rains led to a massive debris flow in the town of Mocoa that left at least 301 people dead and hundreds more injured. As many as 314 people were listed as missing.
  • Other major floods were recorded in New Zealand, Indonesia, Angola, and Zimbabwe.
  • Severe drought conditions worsened in Africa’s Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as the United Nations appealed for USD 1.9 billion in aid.
  • Sub-freezing temperatures led to an expected USD 1.0 billion cost to agriculture in the US states of South Carolina and Georgia. Winter storm damage was also noted in Canada’s Newfoundland.
  • Wildfires claimed seven lives in the US, following major fires in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado.
  • A magnitude 5.0 earthquake in China’s Yunnan province damaged nearly 45,000 structures.

View the full Impact Forecasting March 2017 Global Catastrophe Recap report (PDF).

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