A new analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that Hurricane Matthew brought rainfall to North and South Carolina to a degree which is typically seen once in a thousand years.

Image courtesy of NOAA Hurricane Matthew's annual exceedance probabilities from October 6-10, 2016, for the worst case 24-hour rainfall in North and South Carolina. Hurricane Matthew's annual exceedance probabilities from October 6-10, 2016, for the worst case 24-hour rainfall in North and South Carolina.

The storm caused 43 deaths in the U.S., with 22 in North Carolina.  In 1999, Hurricane Floyd (considered a 500-year flood event) wreaked comparable damage in the state: 51 dead and thousands homeless. Both happened within 20 years of each other, showing that the frequency of such rare events is increasing.

Though natural disasters don’t discriminate, policies often do—hence, vulnerable communities often suffer the worst and receive the least government recovery assistance. In North Carolina, the town of Lumberton, where 32 percent of the residents live in poverty and the population is nearly 40 percent Black and 13 percent Native American, there was record rainfall which led to massive flooding. It was one of the state’s most devastated towns.

NOAA also found in an analysis that the Louisiana storms in August—which brought flooding that damaged upwards of 100,000 homes—caused rainfall typically seen once every 500 or 1,000 years in certain areas. As climate continues to change, storms like the one in Louisiana and hurricanes such as Matthew will increase in frequency and intensity.

Colorlines screenshot of NOAA analysis, taken October 21, 2016. Louisiana annual exceedance probabilities for the worst case 48-hour rainfall on August 11-13, 2016. Louisiana annual exceedance probabilities for the worst case 48-hour rainfall on August 11-13, 2016.