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Hurricane season starts: Florida, New York homes most at risk

Batten down the hatches: In the wake of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's prediction that 2013 will be an "active or extremely active" hurricane season, a new report finds that more than 4.2 million American homes are at risk of storm-surge damage - with Florida and New York leading the pack. That includes about 1 million U.S. homes in "high risk" areas.

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The report, from CoreLogic, looked at the risk to single-family homes from storm surges - water being pushed onto land, usually due to the impact of a major storm. NOAA predicts that there is a 70 percent chance there will be 13-20 "named storms" in the Atlantic in the 2013 season, which officially kicks off Saturday.

That includes seven to 11 storms that could become hurricanes and three to six that could become major hurricanes, with winds of 111 miles per hour or higher. The prediction meets or exceeds the seasonal average of 12 named storms and three major hurricanes per year.

Florida homeowners face the greatest risk from a storm surge. Nearly 1.5 million homes in the state are at risk for damage from a surge, including more than 618,000 that are at extreme or very high risk. Louisiana has the second most at-risk homes, with 411,000, followed by Texas (369,000), New Jersey (351,000) and Virginia (329,000). Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.

New York state has the sixth most homes at risk, with 270,000, but it ranks second to Florida when you look at the total value of the property at risk - something the report attributes to higher coastal property values. The potential exposure of homes in Florida is $386 billion, followed by New York at $135 billion, New Jersey at $119 billion, Virginia at $78 billion and Louisiana at $72 billion. (Figures are rounded to the nearest billion.)

Overall, there is $1.1 trillion in potential residential exposure, according to the report. This chart shows the top 10 states at risk:

Potential Storm Surge Damage by State
Potential Storm Surge Damage by State

The report also looked at the highest storm-surge risk among major metropolitan areas. New York City, which was badly damaged in superstorm Sandy last year, topped the list with $205 billion in potential damage to homes. It was followed by Miami at $100 billion, Virginia Beach at $73 billion, Tampa at $55 billion and New Orleans at $44 billion.

Potential Storm Surge Damage by Metropolitan Area
Potential Storm Surge Damage by Metropolitan Area

Last year, the report notes, Hurricane Isaac did $2.3 billion worth of damage and damaged or destroyed 59,000 homes; Sandy did more than $50 billion worth of damage and damaged or destroyed at least 650,000 homes.

The report's authors say the impact of climate change falls beyond their scope, but the report notes that increases in sea level mean a significant increase in risk. A one-foot rise in sea level would put an additional 16,000 homes at risk in New York City, for example - with an additional $7 billion in potential damage - while an increase of three feet would mean 49,000 more homes at risk and $19.5 billion in potential damage.

On Friday, the American Red Cross and The Weather Channel released a survey of Americans living in coastal counties from Texas to Maine. It found that only about half have an evacuation plan in case of a major hurricane, and 3 in 10 do not know where they would stay if forced to evacuate. The National Weather Service is now wrapping up Hurricane Preparedness Week, designed to urge more Americans to prepare for the impact of a hurricane disaster.

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