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Harvey, Irma and Maria now in the top 5 costliest hurricanes on record, NOAA says

Satellite image of three hurricanes in the Atlantic at once on Sept. 8: Katia, Irma and Jose. (NOAA/NASA)

The 2017 hurricane season was an assault. As if in attempt to eject us (humans, that is) from the planet, Mother Nature unleashed the harshest of winds and hardest of rains on Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico. The season brought more costly landfalling storms than the past few years combined.

Harvey, Irma and Maria are now in the top 5 most expensive hurricanes in the United States, according to a new report by NOAA. Andrew, Charley, Hugo, Allison — those are storms of the past. Small peas, compared with what we faced in 2017. Even Hurricane Sandy was knocked from its second-place pedestal after last year, easily one of the most destructive in U.S. history.

The flooding from Hurricane Harvey, which slammed into Texas in late August, was more destructive than anything else. About 33 trillion gallons of water fell from the storm, most of which landed in a swath from Houston to southwest Louisiana. Some estimates have placed Harvey ahead of Hurricane Katrina in damages — about $180 billion. The NOAA analysis pegs Harvey’s cost at about $125 billion.

Before Harvey had even dissipated, Irma was forming farther east in the Atlantic Ocean. Two weeks later, it slammed into the Florida Peninsula. The storm’s strong sustained winds brought down trees, which damaged property and wiped out power for as many as 16 million customers across the Southeast.

As the storm pushed north, its rainfall overwhelmed the Santa Fe River and flooded Jacksonville, Fla., overnight. The mayor said it was the worst flooding the city had seen in at least a century.

No storm in 2017 was as devastating as Hurricane Maria was to Puerto Rico. After it ravaged Dominica and St. Croix, Maria crashed into Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 — the most intense hurricane to strike the island since 1928.

Although the official death toll has remained relatively low, a recent investigation by the New York Times found the number of hurricane-related deaths probably exceeds 1,000. The governor of Puerto Rico ordered a recount of the death toll in mid-December.