Ag Today January 8, 2018

Extreme hurricanes and wildfires made 2017 the most costly U.S. disaster year on record

 January 8 at 5:32 PM

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria combined with devastating Western wildfires and other natural catastrophes to make 2017 the most expensive year on record for disasters in the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday.

The disasters caused $306 billion in total damage in 2017, with 16 events that caused more than $1 billion in damage each. The bulk of the damage, at $265 billion, came from hurricanes.

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

The record-breaking year raises concerns about the effects of future natural disasters, as scientists fear climate change could make extreme weather events more damaging.

Hurricane Harvey, which sparked extreme flooding in Houston and the surrounding area in August and September, caused $125 billion in damage, the year’s most expensive disaster. Hurricane Maria, which in September set off a fatal and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and elsewhere, caused $90 billion in damage. Hurricane Irma raked across the Caribbean and hit Florida in September, causing $50 billion in total damage, NOAA reports.

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