We are Experiencing More Fire and Severe Storm Declarations, While Hurricanes Remain the Deadliest and Most Costly Natural Disasters

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We are declaring more natural disasters due to extreme weather, with 137 incidents declared in 2017 and 124 in 2018 (Fig. 132). Since 1999, there were 1,052 more fire declarations and 529 more severe storm declarations than in the same 20-year prior period. In the same time period, flood declarations fell by 129.

Five of the most expensive disaster declarations since 1980— Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Sandy, and Irma and the 2012 drought/heat wave—happened within the last ten years (Fig. 133). 

NOTE: Dollar figures on this page are adjusted to 2017 levels.

Since 2000, the most expensive types of disasters according to FEMA disaster aid data are hurricanes, severe storms, fires, floods, and severe ice storms. The number of billion- dollar disasters is increasing, with a significant uptick in the number of expensive severe storms (Fig. 134). US disaster aid in 2017 spiked to $18.6 billion, which nearly matched 2012's need for $20.6 billion in assistance.

Hurricanes are the deadliest major disaster event type in the United States. Hurricane Maria caused a reported 2,981 deaths in 2017, making it much more fatal than Hurricane Katrina (1,833 deaths) in 2005 (Fig. 131).