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Friday, 01 December 2017 16:25

FEMA: As Historic 2017 Hurricane Season Comes to an End, Federal Support to Recovery Continues

WASHINGTON – While Nov. 30 marks the end of a historic hurricane season, FEMA and its partners continue to work diligently in support of disaster survivors recovering from the devastating season.  Four hurricanes made landfall:  Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate (the first three were classified as major hurricanes, which affectedroughly 25.8 million people). Also during this season, nearly two dozen large wildfires burned more than 200,000 acres of land in northern California. 

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time two Atlantic Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the Continental United States, in the same season.  Hurricane Harvey set a new record for the most rainfall from a U.S. tropical cyclone, with more than 50 inches of rain in some areas. The storm resulted in catastrophic flooding in Texas and western Louisiana.  Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma became the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane on record. Winds peaked at 185 mph, and Hurricane Irma remained a hurricane for 11 days. Irma was the longest-lived Atlantic hurricane since Ivan in 2004.  The public response to Hurricane Irma, as the storm approached, resulted in one of the largest sheltering missions in U.S. history.

Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico soon after Hurricane Irma struck their shores. Hurricane Maria was the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the main island of Puerto Rico in 85 years, and the resulting response became the longest sustained air mission of food and water in FEMA history. In addition to these hurricanes, prior to the 2017 season FEMA already had 17 Joint Field Offices working 28 presidentially-declared disasters.

Since Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, the President has granted 16 Major Disaster declarations and 14 Emergency Declarations, while FEMA has authorized 25 Fire Management Assistance Grant declarations. Over a span of 25 days, FEMA and our partners deployed tens of thousands of personnel across 270,000 square miles in three different FEMA regions. 

So far, more than 4.7 million disaster survivors registered for federal assistance with FEMA – more than all who registered for hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Sandy combined.  To respond to the historic demand, FEMA expanded its call center capacity by tenfold, and increased the number of home and property damage inspectors fourfold.

“This historic hurricane season should serve as a gut check and an opportunity for citizens, businesses, state, local, tribal and federal officials to re-evaluate how we prepare for and respond to any disaster,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “Response and recovery is dependent upon the whole community to be successful. While we continue to support the recovery from these storms, we must also take the opportunity to become better prepared for future disasters.”

To date, FEMA has placed more than $2 billion in disaster assistance into the hands of disaster survivors to help them recover from these events.  As of mid-November, National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders filed approximately 120,000 claims, resulting in payments totaling more than $6.3 billion.

“State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, along with the residents in the impacted areas, are the true first responders,” said Administrator Long. “FEMA alone cannot deliver assistance to this vast number of survivors. We must hit the re-set button on the culture of preparedness in our country.”

Non-profit organizations provide crucial services to sustain lives in partnership with the rest of the response and recovery infrastructure.  The private sector also plays a significant role in disasters, as businesses work to restore critical services and donate their time and resources – in close coordination with emergency management personnel – to help communities rebound in the wake of disasters. 

Thousands of members of the federal workforce were deployed to Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, including 13,892 staff from various offices of the Department of Defense (DoD), including the military services. For the first time, FEMA extended the Department of Homeland Security’s “Surge Capacity Force,” to all federal agencies, deploying over 3,800 non-FEMA federal employees. 

FEMA search and rescue teams saved nearly 9,000 lives, in addition to those saved or assisted by DoD, the Coast Guard, state and local partners, first responders, and neighbors helping neighbors. 

While the 2017 Hurricane Season has ended, recovering from these devastating hurricanes will take years, and FEMA and our federal partners will continue to support affected governments and survivors as they build back stronger.

For information on how you can prepare for the 2018 Hurricane Season, see https://www.ready.gov/hurricanesor download the FEMA App: https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app.

For the latest information about FEMA support to response and recovery efforts, see:

Hurricane Harvey:  https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-harvey   
Hurricane Irma:  https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma  
Hurricane Maria:  https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-maria

U.S. Customs & Border Protection & FEMA personnel deliver food and water to isolatedPuerto Rico residents after their bridge was destroyed by Hurricane Maria in themountains around Utuado, Puerto Rico (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JoshuaL. DeMotts)
U.S. Customs & Border Protection & FEMA personnel deliver food and water to isolated Puerto Rico residents after their bridge was destroyed by Hurricane Maria in the mountains around Utuado, Puerto Rico (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts)

A large group of Urban Search & Rescue and disaster survivor assistance teams are spread out in front of a U.S. Coast Guard airplane on the tarmac of a Key West airport. There are assorted suitcases and boxes on the ground.
FEMA Urban Search and Rescue and disaster survivor assistance teams arrive via U.S. Coast Guard transport, in Key West, Florida, in response to Hurricane Irma. Yvonne Smith/FEMA

Disaster survivor Terry Roundtree (center) gets a FEMA hug from Hector Marerro (right), Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) Crew Lead.
Disaster survivor gets a FEMA hug from a Disaster Survivor Assistance Crew Lead, after receiving disaster registration information at her home in Texas, following Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Christopher Mardorf/FEMA

guardsmen pass cases of water
National Guardsmen from Virginia and the U.S. Virgin Islands work together to restock a point of distribution at Holy Spirit Church, Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA



2017 HURRICANE SEASONUnprecedented25.8 Millionpeople were affected by hurricanesHarvey, Irma and Maria.FOR THE RECORDas of November 30, 2017First time 2 Atlantic Category 4Hurricanes (Harvey and Irma)made landfall in the continental U.S.in the same year. Hurricane Harvey grew from aregenerated tropical depression to aCategory 4 hurricane in 56 hours.Harvey set a new record for themost rainfall from a U.S. tropicalcyclone, with more than 50” of rainand remained a cyclone for nearly 5days after landfall.Hurricane Irma became the strongestAtlantic Ocean hurricane on recordwith winds peaking over 185mphand remained a hurricane for 11days.Hurricane Maria was the FirstCategory 4 hurricane in 85 yearsto make landfall on the main islandof Puerto Rico.Hurricane Irma was 500 mileswide, more than 130 miles widerthan the entire state of Florida. Over 700 generators installed inPuerto Rico by the USACE.48 states and the District of Columbia assistedwith operations from Texas to U.S. Territories in theCaribbean, through Emergency ManagementAssistance Compacts.