Climate report finds natural disasters are getting worse; where will they hit hardest?

Posted at 1:58 PM, Nov 30, 2018

There have been about 11 natural disaster in the U.S. this year, each costing more than $1 billion.

The Montoyas survived Houston’s Hurricane Harvey.  Nearly a year and a half later, they are living in just one bedroom of their house, because they can't afford the repairs to the rest of their home. 

"It became really overwhelming, so I sat, and I just prayed, and I just said, ‘I'm going to leave it at your feet,’” says Monica Montoya.

The Montoyas could be any of us. The locations in the path of natural disasters are changing, whether it's floods, freezing or flames.

"We're starting to see fires where we haven't seen fires before,” says Professor Jennifer Balch, an earth lab director at the University of Colorado.

The client expert says forests are drying out, because global temperatures have warmed 1.8 degrees. Fires that we used to see primarily in the west are starting farther east. 

"So, the Gatlinburg fires in Tennessee, which killed several people," says Balch as an example.

Fourteen people were killed and 2,400 buildings were damaged.

Balch says she’s worried for the future.

"We've also seen fires in the tundra ecosystem in the arctic, which we haven't seen fires in the ecosystem seen 10,000 years," Balch says.

Balch says heat will also make things bad in the south and east.

"We're essentially pumping more atmospheric water into the atmosphere, and that that water becomes available for storms," she says.

In the Mid-Atlantic, summer-like weather is lasting  a day longer, on average, each year. In the Northeast, it’ll be two days longer, and heat waves will become more common, scientists say.

But just like in the south, warmer air also means more moisture for storms in the winter.

With even more disasters comes more need, and after a while, those big fundraisers we see afterwards lose steam

"Community solidarity that follows disaster is often times very short lived, because that pain and the suffering and the long-term recovery process starts to set in for families and for communities," explains Lori Peek, director of Natural Hazards Center.

Fortunately for the Montoyas, the family received manpower help from pastor Joel Osteen's mega-church. They just got a new roof. Their hope: their kids can get back to normal and spend Christmas in all the rooms of their home.

“I just want to be with my family for Christmas, sitting on the couch, drinking hot cocoa and just being together,” says Rico Montoya.

And with the new weather realities, the Montoya family is just another reminder that this could be any one of us.