Hurricanes, wildfires made 2017 most costly disaster year in U.S. records

A U.S. map plotted with 16 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that occurred in 2017. (NOAA)

The powerful hurricanes that devastated the eastern part of the United States, as well as the massive wildfires in the west and other natural disasters, have made 2017 the country’s most expensive year on record for disasters.

According to a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), natural catastrophes combined to cause $306 billion in total damage throughout the past year.

Sixteen of these disasters caused over $1 billion in damage. These include a drought event, two flooding events, one freeze event, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and a wildfire.

“2017 was a historic year for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters,” Adam Smith, an economist for NOAA, told reporters.

A bulk of the damage was caused by hurricanes, three of which caused a combined $265 billion worth of damage. Hurricane Harvey, which caused massive flooding in Houston and surrounding areas, was the year’s most expensive disaster and caused over $125 billion in damage.

Hurricane Maria, which devastated the Caribbean, including the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, caused $90 billion in damage, while Hurricane Irma, which hit the Caribbean islands and Florida in September, caused $50 billion worth of damage.

Prior to 2017, the most expensive year in terms of damage from natural disasters was 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and other events caused a total of $215 billion in total damage.

With 16 disasters causing over $1 billion in damage, 2017 ties 2011 for the largest total number of such events.

Additionally, the NOAA also reported that 2017 was the third warmest year on record. The year also saw all of the states in mainland U.S. record a warmer average temperature for the third consecutive year. Five states also recorded their warmest year ever, including Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

With 2017 on the record books, each of the five warmest years on record have come since 2006.