If 2017 seemed like an especially bad year for natural disasters, it was. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has tabbed 2017 the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the U.S., with total damage estimated at more than $306 billion. Not surprisingly, Hurricane Harvey was the most expensive event, with $125 billion in damage (and the total possibly still climbing.) Next was Hurricane Maria at $90 billion and Hurricane Irma at $50 billion. Then there were the California wildfires, which did an estimated $18 billion in damage.
The Atlantic Hurricane season, which was the worst in years, was a huge factor in all of the damage last year, according to Eric Berger with Space City Weather. "Harvey was the biggest factor...by some accounts it is the costliest natural disaster in United States history," he tells KTRH. "And then if you lump Irma and Maria on top of that, you have a major contribution from tropical weather."
Berger acknowledges that major tropical events were only part of the story in 2017. "Wildfires in Colorado, California, and up and down much of the west coast really contributed to this problem, as well," he says.
All told, the U.S. experienced 16 different weather events last year which each exceeded a billion dollars in damage. Berger believes there are other factors at work. "Part of that is the value of property along the coast and vulnerable to hurricanes is going up, and there is more development in harm's way," he says. "But I don't think there is any doubt that 2017 was a special year in terms of overall damage, thanks to the very active tropics."