Year in review. Top 100 [albums or songs or articles—you name it, there’s a list]. It’s, once again, the time of year where publications big and small, and even individuals take a step back and look at the last twelve months and all that has happened.
2017, to put it in the most rudimentary terms, has been monumental, particularly as it pertains to disasters; it was one for the record books.
With the first storm of the year occurring in late April with Arlene, prior to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, the stage was set for a season that would be out of the ordinary. While some storms (including Bret and Don) stayed and strayed far from the United States, some came worryingly close (think back to Jose) and others made a definite impact.1
Areas that were struck by storms in pretty rapid succession stretched as far west as Texas and as far east to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — impacting over 25 million people. With some quick math, that computes to nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population affected by 2017’s intense hurricane season. 2
With an area that expansive, response efforts became an all hands on deck, collaborative effort. For the first time since Sandy, the Department of Homeland Security’s Surge Capacity Force was employed, opening the door for staff from other federal agencies across DHS and the federal government to help citizens in their most dire time of need.
Here in D.C., the response effort for these storms was one that stretched the capability of staff further than it had been in a long time. Our National Response Coordination Center, the heart of our response capabilities, where federal and voluntary agencies all have seats at the table, was staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for nearly two months. Staff were pulling together and working twelve hour shifts. Our priorities shifted from regular day-to-day work to supporting disaster survivors of the hurricanes and wildfires.
The storms themselves set records. Irma became the longest sustained category 5 hurricane since the satellite era began in 1966, and was the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005.
Maria was the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico in 85 years, and Harvey was the first category 4 hurricane to strike Texas since Carla in 1961. Even after landfall, Harvey’s impact would be felt as rain fall was recorded at 50 to 60 inches in some areas, breaking the previous U.S. tropical cyclone rainfall record.
Harvey, Irma and Maria marked the first time three Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the United States during the same year. And while the initial response is over, recovery continues and will continue across all of the affected areas. Short-term recovery, like repairing homes and restoring emergency power and the long-term recovery like restoring roadways, economies, and historical landmarks continues throughout the next year and beyond.
- National Weather Service North Atlantic Hurricane Tracking Chart
- United States Census Bureau Population Estimator (Editor’s Note: The statistics on this page are perpetually updating; the data used in this calculation was pulled on December 11, 2017.)
- Editor’s Note: All other data points in this post come from FEMA-collected data or from the Hurricane Liaison Team. The graphic used for some reference points can be found in our media library.