Damages from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could cost the U.S. economy as much as $290 billion, a new forecast estimates.
The storms mark the first time in history that two Category 4 or higher hurricanes hit U.S. mainland in a single year, and both severe events affected heavily populated cities. Hurricane Harvey, which demolished parts of Houston with winds and flooding, is estimated to be the costliest weather disaster in the country’s history, and Hurricane Irma’s damage to Florida’s coastal cities is expected to be extensive and costly.
“We believe the damage estimate from Irma to be about $100 billion, among the costliest hurricanes of all time. This amounts to 0.5 of a percentage point of the GDP of $19 trillion,” AccuWeather President Joel Myers said in a statement Sunday. “We estimated that Hurricane Harvey is to be the costliest weather disaster in U.S. history at $190 billion or one full percentage point of the GDP.”
Combined, these disasters “will about equal and therefore counter the natural growth of the economy” from mid-August through the end of the year, he added.
Myers said the estimated costs include disruptions to businesses, increased unemployment rates, damages to infrastructure, crop loss, higher fuel prices and property damages.
"Some of the losses will be covered by insurance, some will not, so the losses will be felt in a variety of ways by millions of people," Myers said. "Many millions of people have already been evacuated, so their lives have already been affected and they have incurred costs of one sort or another."
But as Irma continues to move through Florida and into Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky — though downgraded to a tropical storm — heavy rain and possible flash floods remain a top concern.
The storm’s movement may also cause the cost to repair damages to rise in the coming days.
"This is a story for many days to come, and Florida will be ravaged the most through Sunday night and maybe north Florida Monday morning," Myers said.