Harvey, Irma, and Maria: Making History
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was among the top seven most intense ever recorded. Record-breaking statistics include the following:*
Hurricane Harvey: Harvey produced 60.58 inches of rainfall in Texas, the most ever recorded in the continental U.S. from a tropical cyclone. It was the first category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Texas since 1961, and the first category 4 to make landfall in the U.S. since 2004. Harvey lasted 117 hours, beating the previous record for duration of Hurricane Fern in 1971.
Hurricane Irma: With maximum winds of 185 miles per hour, Irma became the strongest storm on record to exist in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. It sustained those maximum winds speeds for 37 hours and spent three consecutive days as a category 5 hurricane—making it the longest of any cyclone in the world ever recorded to maintain that intensity. The occurrences of Harvey and Irma—making landfall within two weeks of each other—were the first time in recorded history that two category 4 or higher hurricanes struck the U.S. mainland in the same year.
Hurricane Maria: Maria was the first category 5 hurricane ever to make landfall in Dominica, and the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1928. It was the deadliest of 2017’s three major storm, with over 500 fatalities.
No event in U.S. history has recorded so many people without power for as long as what occurred in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Maria. Seven weeks after the storm hit, 50 percent of Puerto Rico was still without power. Of the top five power losses in the nation’s history, Irma is number four, with 20 million people in the U.S. and 15 million in the Caribbean affected.*
Of the 203 weather disasters from 1980 to 2016, tropical cyclones have caused the most damage: $560.1 billion total, with an average $16 billion cost per event, and the highest number of deaths (3,210).
In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused over $10 billion in damage to the Southeast coast, with historic levels of river flooding in eastern North Carolina. The storm’s 49 deaths accounted for the highest loss of life from a weather event in 2016.
The Drought of 2012
The 2012 drought was the most extensive and damaging to hit the U.S. since the 1930s. More than half the country was affected by moderate to extreme drought conditions, with costs reaching $31.5 billion and 123 deaths occurring as a direct result of the associated heatwave.