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Damage from 2017 weather and climate disasters set record

Hurricane Irma heavily damaged parts of the Florida Keys, including Big Pine Key, where this picture was taken Sept. 21, shortly after the area reopened to residents.

Hurricane Irma heavily damaged parts of the Florida Keys, including Big Pine Key, where this picture was taken Sept. 21, shortly after the area reopened to residents.

The United States experienced a historic year of weather and climate disasters in 2017, with 16 catastrophes costing $306.2 billion — shattering the record set in 2005 of $214.8 billion, which was attributable to hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

A report released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information showed that 16 events — including hurricanes and wildfires — caused more than $1 billion in damage apiece and killed 362 people in the United States, including Puerto Rico.

Hurricanes accounted for the majority of the damage, costing an estimated $295 billion.

Those 16 events tied 2011 for the record number of billion-dollar disasters during a calendar year, NOAA said.

“In fact, 2017 arguably has more events than 2011, given that our analysis traditionally counts all U.S. billion-dollar wildfires as regional-scale, seasonal events, not as multiple isolated events,” said the report.

This map from NOAA shows the approximate location of each of the 16 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that hit the United States last year.

This map from NOAA shows the approximate location of each of the 16 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that hit the United States last year.

The news comes only weeks after the House of Representatives passed an $81 billion disaster aid package, according to USA Today. The Senate did not take up the bill and is working on its own version.

Hurricane Harvey was the costliest of the disasters, racking up damage of $125 billion, second only to Katrina, which NOAA estimates cost $160 billion after it was adjusted to 2017 dollars.

Harvey's devastation was most pronounced because of a large region of extreme rainfall that produced historic flooding across Houston and surrounding areas. More than 30 inches of rainfall fell on 6.9 million people; 1.25 million experienced more than 45 inches and 11,000 had more than 50 inches, based on rainfall totals for the seven-day period that ended Aug. 31.

Hurricane Harvey was the most destructive of all 16 disasters that struck the U.S. in 2017.

Hurricane Harvey was the most destructive of all 16 disasters that struck the U.S. in 2017.

This historic U.S. rainfall caused massive flooding that displaced more than 30,000 people and damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 homes and businesses, NOAA said.

Hurricanes Maria and Irma caused $90 billion and $50 billion in damage, respectively.

Maria, a Category 4 storm, made landfall in southeast Puerto Rico after striking St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maria's high winds caused widespread devastation to Puerto Rico's transportation, agriculture, communication and energy infrastructure. Extreme rainfall of as much as 37 inches caused widespread flooding and mudslides across the island.

Commerce and standard living conditions will be interrupted for a long period as much of Puerto Rico's infrastructure gets rebuilt, NOAA said.

Maria tied Wilma in 2005 for the most rapid intensification, strengthening from a tropical depression to a Category 5 storm in 54 hours.

Irma, a Category 4 storm, made landfall on Cudjoe Key, Fla., after devastating the Virgin Islands as a Category 5. The Florida Keys were heavily impacted, as 25 percent of the buildings were destroyed and 65 percent were significantly damaged, NOAA said.

Maria is now the third-costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation, and Irma is the fifth-costliest.

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