World Bulletin / News Desk
The government agency recorded 16 weather-related events that cost over $1 billion each in 2017, tying a record set in 2011 after the NOAA began record-keeping in 1980. Last year could arguably surpass 2011 for total events, the NOAA said, given that it treats all wildfires as a regional event rather than isolated incidents.
In southern California alone, as many as six wildfires had firefighters scrambling to contain them last month. One of those fires, the Thomas Fire, set the state's record for largest-ever inferno.
The NOAA counted only one wildfire last year.
Disputes over the NOAA's methodology aside, the 2017 events caused $306 billion in damage, with the vast majority of those costs coming from hurricanes, which accounted for $265 billion.
Even as the total losses far surpass the previous record set in 2005 ($215 billion, largely due to Hurricane Katrina), the NOAA warned that total costs may rise even further as estimates for hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria are still being evaluated.
The hurricanes ravaged Puerto Rico and laid waste to major population centers along the Gulf Coast -- most notably Houston, where five consecutive days of rain inundated the U.S.'s fourth largest city.
In all, 362 people died in last year's 16 billion-dollar or more weather events.
Last year was also the third-hottest year on record, the NOAA said. Warmer temperatures were only recorded in 2016 and 2012.