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Natural disasters cost U.S. more than $300 billion in 2017

It's a record-breaking bill.

by Carter Sherman
Jan 9 2018, 2:05am

Natural disasters cost the United States a record-breaking $306 billion in 2017, the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) announced in a report Monday.

It’s the highest bill in recorded history, toppling the previous record of $214.8 billion in 2005.

The NCEI, which operate under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, releases a report each year totalling the damage done by natural disasters and counting the number of disasters with more than $1 billion in damage. This year’s numbers weren’t unexpected, and multiple global insurance agencies have already announced that insurance industry costs are soaring due to natural disasters. Munich Re, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, announced that 2017 had the costliest hurricane season on record, creating about $215 billion in worldwide losses.

The NCEI report also found:

  • Sixteen separate billion-dollar disasters took place in 2017, a record set in 2011. But as the report points out, the NCEI analysis traditionally lumps multiple billion-dollar wildfires into one “event,” instead of counting them as multiple isolated incidents. That means that 2017 may, in fact, have experienced the largest number of natural disasters for a single year on record.

  • On average, the United States only experiences about 11 disasters per year.

  • At least 362 people died in disasters in 2017, according to official government counts. However, that number is likely too low. While the official death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria sat at 64 in early December, the real devastation is likely even more severe: In the days following Maria, not even hospitals knew how many people had died.

  • The true costs of 2017’s disasters could also be even more expensive. There’s a lack of data on the impact of flooding, droughts, freezes, and hurricanes — which make up just over half of the natural disasters this year — which means the report could be off, NCEI warns. There’s also less insurance available for these types of disasters.

  • 2017 also happens to be the third-hottest year on record.