What Damage Could Hurricane Matthew Do? Physical & Economic Losses Are Expected


Hurricane Matthew barreled through the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Haiti earlier this week, killing as many as 478 people in the Caribbean islands alone. The damage to Haiti has been particularly devastating, as the Category 4 storm blew through the country's supply of crops and fruit trees. And while these countries slowly begin their rebuilding process, the southeastern coast of the United States is preparing for their own hit from the storm. Despite the storm lessening to a Category 3, Hurricane Matthew could cause severe damage to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

Hurricane Matthew has been making its way up the Florida coastline since early Thursday, bringing in sustained wind speeds of 120 mph and the possibility of an 11-foot wall of water. As the storm approached Thursday afternoon and into Friday, schools closed, state of emergencies were declared, and some 2.5 million Floridians were given evacuation orders by state officials.

The National Hurricane center has warned of "potentially disastrous impacts for Florida” and “life-threatening” flooding throughout the weekend, as well as similar warnings for Georgia and the Carolinas. Likewise, the National Weather Service warned that high wind speeds and surges could leave some areas "uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

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In addition to the potential loss of human life, this deadly combination of storm surges, flooding, and high wind speeds could create a devastating financial impact on the Southern region's most dynamic areas.

Chief Economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, a risk management subsidiary, spoke with USA Today about the potential impact of Hurricane Matthew to these regions: "This is a highly populated, economically developed part of the country." Because of this, Zandi estimates, the economic losses could total in the tens of billions of dollars.

A second estimate given to Fortune from analysts at CoreLogic suggest that damage could reach as high as $326 billion dollars, though Hurricane Matthew would have to sustain its maximum power and not lessen across state lines to hit this number.

Florida's tourism industry could also be highly affected, with airlines canceling some 2,800 flights originally scheduled to pass through the state's airports this weekend. Walt Disney World, known for its year-round schedule, also closed early on Thursday and would remain closed on Friday. SeaWorld and Universal Studios followed suit.

Much of the impact to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas will have to be assessed later on, as residents and business owners return to their properties in the coming days.