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East Coast floods may cost $2 billion, Aon says

A man called for help after his car stalled in floodwaters in Charleston, S.C. in October.
A man called for help after his car stalled in floodwaters in Charleston, S.C. in October.AP FILE

South Carolina floods and Pacific Ocean cyclones contributed to the most costly month for natural disasters globally this year, as expected economic losses in October are expected to exceed $10 billion, Aon Plc said.

Flooding in the eastern US caused an estimated $2 billion in economic losses, the insurance broker said Thursday in a report. Hurricane Patricia, which became the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, may have caused $300 million in economic damage.

That’s nearly as bad as the snowstorms that pounded the northeast in February. Those storms inflicted $3 billion in total economic losses, Aon said earlier this year.

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South Carolina was pounded by relentless rain and flooding, in what Governor Nikki Haley called a 1,000-year event. Combined with other eastern US floods, the storms add up to one of the top 10 costliest non-tropical-cyclone flood events in the US since 1980, London-based Aon’s Impact Forecasting said.

“October ended as one of the most active, and costly, months of 2015 for natural disasters,” Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting associate director and meteorologist, said Thursday in the statement. “Many of the major weather events -- such as record-breaking tropical cyclone activity in the Pacific Ocean, the historic South Carolina floods and deepening global droughts -- were clearly impacted by the current El Nino’s growing fingerprint on global weather patterns.”

An El Nino pattern, occurring every two to seven years, is a warming of the equatorial Pacific amid a weakening of trade winds that normally push sun-warmed waters to the west. That triggers a reaction from the atmosphere above.

Typhoon Mujigae killed at least 22 people and became the costliest tropical cyclone of the year when it landed in China and the Philippines, causing economic losses of $4.2 billion, Aon said. Tropical cyclones have been moving over the Pacific as El Nino’s intensity warms up the sea surface temperatures.

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“Given the increasing intensity of El Nino, it is expected that these impacts will become even more defined around the world as we enter the boreal late autumn and winter month,” Bowen said.