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09 January 2018, 01:53 | Nichole Osborne
Roofs ripped off houses in San Juan Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria slammed into the city
Hurricane Harvey racked up total damage costs of $125 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina in the 38-year period of record keeping for billion-dollar disasters.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Monday the destructive climate events came during the third-warmest year on record for the US. "Each of these destructive hurricanes now joins Katrina and Sandy, in the new top 5 costliest USA hurricanes on record".
Last year's disasters killed 362 people in the USA, including Puerto Rico, NOAA said. The interruption to commerce and standard living conditions will continue, as much of Puerto Rico's infrastructure is rebuilt.
"The cumulative damage of these 16 United States events during 2017 is $306.2bn, which shatters the previous USA annual record cost of $214.8bn established in 2005".
Rainfall from Harvey caused massive flooding that displaced over 30,000 people and damaged or destroyed over 200,000 homes and businesses, NOAA said.
The previous record year for $1 billion disasters was 2005, the year of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with an inflation-adjusted $214.8 billion cost.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total damages of $90bn and $50bn, respectively.
"During 2017, the USA experienced a historic year of weather and climate disasters", the weather agency said.
Scientists have long concluded that carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels and industry are driving climate change, leading to floods, droughts and more-frequent powerful storms.
2017 was the third warmest year on record for the United States, which was tortured by drought, fire, hurricanes and floods and the effects were felt disproporionately wherever the pace of development, like on Houston's flood plain, has outstripped environmental considerations.
It noted the five warmest years for the United States all have occurred since 2006. "Each year provides another piece of evidence in what science has already confirmed - the consequences of rising temperatures are putting people and wildlife at risk", he said.
The nation's $1 billion disasters a year ago were: three hurricanes, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, a drought and a wildfire.
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