Disasters Affected 8 Percent of U.S. Population in 2017

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supported 59 major disaster declarations and 16 emergency declarations in 2017, a year during which unprecedented disasters affected more than 25 million Americans, almost 8 percent of the U.S. population. The 2017 hurricane season produced 17 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes (six of them major hurricanes), including Harvey and Irma, the first two major hurricanes to hit the continental U.S. in 12 years.

This year was also historic for wildfires across the western states that included two of the most devastating to ever impact California: the Tubbs fire in the northern counties, and the Thomas fire, which gained the distinction of becoming the largest wildfire in modern California history.

The historic disasters of 2017 created one of the busiest years for the National Flood Insurance Program to date – the NFIP has paid out more than $8 billion in flood insurance claims so far.

The year 2017 was also when FEMA entered into a reinsurance agreement with 25 reinsurance companies, transferring risk to the private sector. FEMA says this allowed the program to recover $1.042 billion to pay NFIP claims when the losses of Hurricane Harvey exceeded $8 billion.

FEMA obligated more than $7.2 billion in individual and public disaster assistance in 2017. Nearly five million households have registered for the individual assistance program, which provides direct support to individuals and households in impacted areas. This year, FEMA received more registrations than for Hurricanes Rita, Wilma, Katrina and Sandy combined.

Billions of dollars were provided by FEMA to repair infrastructure through the public assistance program and to reimburse state, local, tribal and territorial governments for clearing debris and rebuilding roads, schools, libraries and other public infrastructure.

Puerto Rick was devastated by Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. Three months later, on December 20, FEMA provided an update on its recovery efforts in Puerto Rico:

  • 10,000 homeowners and renters in Puerto Rico have received $724 million in federal grants and more than $144 million in low-interest disaster loans have been made to 3,700 businesses and residents. The National Flood Insurance Program paid approximately $2.8 million in claims.
  • More than 9,600 survivors are being temporarily housed in Puerto Rico and 38 other states through FEMA’s shelter assistance program.
  • More than 2,000 contractors have been participating in efforts on the ground to restore power along with seven power-industry incident management teams from 15 states.
  • As of January 2, 2018, about 30 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power. According to the government, all 68 hospitals are open and 95 percent of telecommunications service have been restored. Most water treatment centers are operating and more than 96 percent of residents now have access to drinkable water. More than 30 percent of roads remain closed.
  • Also, as of January 2, 2018, nearly 15,000 federal civilian personnel and military service members, including more than 3,039 FEMA personnel, remain on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for recovery operations from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
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