Colorado over the past 20 years has suffered more major natural disasters than Florida and is among nine states where the number of events causing $1 billion or more in damage has more than tripled over the past 40 years, according to a new study from QuoteWizard, an insurance policy search engine.
Between 1982 and 2001, Colorado recorded a dozen major natural disasters, but in the two decades that followed, it recorded 45, an increase of 275%. Only Kansas, despite its much smaller population and economy, had a bigger gain at 288%, going from 16 to 62 major disasters.
“Natural disasters of this magnitude used to happen infrequently in Colorado – about one every other year. Now, they are happening twice a year (on average),” said Nick VinZant, an analyst with QuoteWizard in an email.
A larger population spread across larger swaths of the state, not to mention more expensive cars, homes and infrastructure to replace when things go wrong only offer a partial explanation. The blame mostly comes down to much more unstable weather patterns.
“Climate change is the main reason why Colorado has seen such a significant increase in major natural disasters. Storms are more severe, the wildfire season is longer and drought has become more common,” VinZant said.
The 57 major natural disasters in Colorado going back to 1982 cost around $55 billion, according to QuoteWizard. Around half involved punishing storms, like the monster that hit metro Denver on May 8, 2017, pouring down stones the size of golf balls and baseballs. Other bad years for hail included 2016, 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2009.
Fourteen droughts have devastated the livelihood of farmers, ranchers and tourism attractions over prolonged stretches. By contrast, the 11 major wildfires wreaked their misery over a few days or hours in the case of the Marshall fire on December 30. Fueled by winds topping 100 mph, the grass fire destroyed 1,084 homes worth more than $500 million to become the most damaging in state history in terms of structures destroyed.
Colorado suffered two floods severe enough to make the major category in 40 years, the most recent being the 2013 deluge along the Front Range that destroyed 1,852 homes.
And those brutal winter blizzards that haunt the popular imagination of people living outside Colorado? Only one winter storm and one deep freeze were severe enough to make it into the major disaster camp.
VinZant said bigger payouts are causing insurers to raise premiums. They are also pushing communities and their customers to be better prepared.
Homeowner insurance coverage in Colorado and Kansas already ranks as the eighth– and sixth-most expensive in the nation, respectively. Colorado residents can expect premium increases this year of about 12% on average, while Kansans can expect to take a 16% hit, he said. Premium gains are running closer to 2% in Oklahoma and 3% in Utah, according to QuoteWizard.
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