The cost of catastrophe in 2017
KIRKSVILLE, Mo. —
2017 has come and gone but the weather events that made headlines last year could have lasting impacts on the country.
Tying a record from 2011, a total of 15 weather disasters came with price tags of $1 billion or more.
These 15 disasters were responsible for the deaths of 282 people in the United States and scientists say this is a sign of things to come as years like 2017 will become more common.
The 2017 events were categorized as two floods, a freeze, seven severe storms, three tropical cyclones, a drought and most recently the wildfires. So how much did these disasters cost the country?
The year had barely begun before the first severe storms ripped into the country. In early January severe storms across the South brought 79 confirmed tornadoes, the third most ever in a winter month. Throughout the year six more severe outbreaks occurred causing an estimated $13 billion in losses while taking the lives of 32 people as well.
The longest continuous event was the extreme drought across areas of North/South Dakota and Montana. Disrupting ag and livestock businesses with an estimated cost of $2.5 billion while also being a leading cause in the intense wildfires later that year.
While the upper plains saw heat and dry conditions, early March brought a devastating freeze across many fruit growing Gulf states. Only lasting three days the freeze caused an estimated $1 billion in losses.
One of the biggest stories this year was the catastrophic flooding in California where the Oroville Dam spillway was damaged causing an evacuation of 188 thousand people. Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois saw historic flooding in April and May with almost 15 inches of rain across the area. These two flooding events came with a cost of roughly $3.2 billion.
The most recent event were the wildfires out West. From June through October California was ravaged by historic wildfires, burning over 8.4 million acres and causing an estimated $2 billion in losses.
The main weather stories of 2017 were the three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria) that struck the Gulf states and the surrounding U.S. territories. Estimates put the death toll across the gulf states at 217 people.
The National Centers for Environmental Information will release their actual figures for the cost of the hurricanes on January 8th, but early reports indicate a roughly $352 billion cost. When it is all said and done the total cost of weather events in 2017 looks to be just shy of $400 billion.
It’s an unfortunate reality that scientists expect this “new normal” trend in weather disasters to get worse, but as more data from this year becomes available there is hope that we can learn from these tragedies and better prepare for the storms to come.
For more info on the total cost of all 15 weather disasters in 2017, click here.
For the actual figures on the cost of 2017's events from the National Center for Environmental Information, click here.