The year 2017 was the costliest ever for weather and climate disasters in the United States, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday, totaling $306 billion. The previous record year, 2005, saw $215 billion in disasters.
Three storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria all landed in the top five on NOAA’s updated list of the costliest U.S. tropical cyclones, released last week.
Highlighted by a string of hurricanes that pounded the southeastern U.S. coast in August and September, as well as devastating wildfires that torched large swaths of Northern and Southern California, 2017 saw 16 weather events that each topped a billion dollars in damage.
This ties 2011 for the most billion-dollar weather events to occur in a single year, but their extreme nature and the breadth of disaster types really set last year apart.
“In 2017, we have seen the rare combination of high disaster frequency, disaster cost and diversity of weather and climate extreme events,” said Adam Smith, lead researcher at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
“The U.S. has endured billion-dollar impacts from six of the seven disaster categories we track,” he said: drought, flood, freeze, severe storm, tropical cyclone, wildfire and winter storm. There hasn’t been a year when all seven disaster categories have seen a billion-dollar disaster.
2017 lacked only a billion-dollar winter storm — though we almost certainly had one in the first week of 2018 with the major nor’easter termed a “bomb cyclone.”
A hurricane season for the record books
Hurricanes are the costliest weather events, responsible for about half of the total losses among all U.S. billion-dollar disasters despite accounting for less than 20% of the total events since 1980.
This certainly proved true in 2017, when the U.S. and the Caribbean islands endured back-to-back-to-back devastating hurricanes — all of them now ranking among the top five costliest disasters — which were the main drivers behind the year becoming the costliest on record.
Here are the top ten costliest U.S. hurricanes (adjusted for inflation):
10. Rita (2005)
- Southwest Louisiana, North Texas
9. Wilma (2005)
- South Florida
8. Ivan (2004)
- Alabama, Northwest Florida
7. Ike (2008)
- Texas, Louisiana
6. Andrew (1992)
- Southeast Florida, Louisiana
5. Irma (2017)
4. Sandy (2012)
- Mid-Atlantic & Northeast
3. Maria (2017)
- Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands
2. Harvey (2017)
- Texas, Louisiana
1. Katrina (2005)
- Southeast Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi
For the complete list, see the NOAA report.
CNN contributed to this article.