"One of the explanations often provided for the significant increase in the amount of disaster damages is the population increase in hazard-prone locations, including coastal areas. Every year, more and more Americans are at risk from a variety of natural hazards that affect the coastal environment. In the past 30 years, there has been such explosive growth along the nation's coastal margins that today more than 50% of U.S. citizens live in the coastal zone. Many of these citizens build their homes, businesses, schools and hospitals in locations that are particularly vulnerable to catastrophic and chronic coastal hazards, such as hurricanes, severe storms, coastal erosion and tsunamis. National attention on disaster losses intensified with Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and the other major catastrophic events that followed in rapid succession, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Midwest floods in 1993 and the Northridge earthquake in 1994. In recent years, several hurricanes, including Opal, Marilyn, Iniki and Fran, have significantly affected the Southeast, Gulf, and Hawaiian and Caribbean coasts, while numerous storms and El Niño-induced events have pounded the West Coast. In addition, higher than average lake levels and coastal storms have resulted in destructive and costly flooding and erosion along the Great Lakes. The size and scope of these large-scale events have had a profound effect on public policy and perceptions concerning hazards and what can, or should, be done to minimize their impacts."
NOAA National Ocean Service: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/