USA sets new record for major disasters

12 January, 2018, 18:36 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Roofs ripped off houses in San Juan Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria slammed into the city

Past year was the most expensive in United States history for natural disasters, with a barrage of fires, freezes, floods and hurricanes that cost $306 billion, according to a USA government report on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).

But the deadliest hurricane season in U.S. history has been 1,900 when Galveston killed 8,000 people and caused damage worth $104.3 billion.

The nation's $1 billion disasters previous year were: three hurricanes, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, a drought and a wildfire. The year 2017 tied 2011 for the largest total number of such events, at 16.

Visit the NOAA website to see records of billion-dollar disasters back to 1980. 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.

The previous most expensive disaster year was 2005, when events such as Hurricane Katrina caused $215 billion in US damage when adjusted for inflation. "Last month, Swiss Re released a similar report stating that global insured losses for 2017 were $136 billion, and total economic losses are estimated to be $306 billion".

Last year was also the third-hottest year on record, the NOAA said.

More frequent, severe natural disasters and rising costs associated with recovery and relief are part of a larger trend, since climate change makes weather more erratic and extreme. According to the NOAA, that is triple the previous record for wildfires.

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The catastrophes came during a third consecutive year of above-average annual temperatures across the contiguous USA and Alaska, the NOAA report found. (Hawaii also saw record temperatures, but was not included in the report).

Hurricanes made up the majority of the 2017 total, with Harvey, Irma, and Maria causing $265 billion in damages.

Last year's disasters killed 362 people in the USA, including Puerto Rico, NOAA said. An historic firestorm savaged over 15,000 homes, businesses and other structures in northern California in October, with the combined destruction of the Tubbs, Atlas, Nuns and Redwood Valley wildfires ringing in as the most costly wildfire event on record.

Deadly wildfires spread across nine western USA states caused damage amounting to $18 billion.

Past year saw 16 separate events with losses exceeding $1bn, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Today's NOAA report and recent reports from the insurance industry reinforce the fact that climate change is a threat to our health, and also a threat to our economy.

Correction: This story was revised to correct NOAA's estimate for 2017 damages to more than $300 billion. 2016 and 2012 were the only warmer years.

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