December is here which means the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is officially over. It was the busiest season since the record-setting year of 2005.
This year saw 17 named storms – 10 of which became hurricanes, and six of them reached Category 3 strength or higher — including Irma, which tore through the Florida Keys and up Florida’s west coast back in September impacting every county in the state.
The storm made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane and made a second landfall in Florida at Marco Island as a Category 3 storm.
It left 6.5 million Floridians without power. Officials called it the largest power-restoration effort in U.S. history.
Irma resulted in over $5.8 billion in insured losses resulting from 831,000 claims filed as of Nov. 13, the most recent numbers compiled by the state Office of Insurance Regulation.
No part of the state was spared.
Although Irma ripped across the western side of the state, Miami-Dade County reported the most claims with 108,000. Orange reported 66,000 claims. Duval had 33,000.
The storm was especially devastating to Florida’s agriculture industry resulting in $2.5 billion of damages.
The citrus industry, took the biggest hit from Irma with damage estimated at nearly $761 million. Irma’s winds ripped fruit off of citrus trees and left citrus groves flooded.
Citrus growers have been waiting for financial help from the federal government, which has yet to happen. A delegation from Florida, including 12 growers, spent part of this week in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress and members of the Trump administration for assistance. Two disaster relief packages have been passed, but neither contained money to compensate growers for the loss of crop and trees.
A new $44 billion relief package has been proposed by the Trump administration to cover losses from Irma, as well as from hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Congress is expected to vote on the spending measure this month.
It’s still too early to determine what impact, if any, Irma might have had on tourism. The state’s tourism industry had been on pace to reach 120 million visitors, breaking last year’s record of nearly 113 million.
Irma struck in the final quarter of 2017. Fourth quarter numbers will tell if the storm had any affect on visitors coming to Florida.
Third quarter numbers released last week showed tourism remained strong with 27.9 million visitors coming to Florida from July to September — an increase of 3.3 percent over the same period a year ago.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30 each year.
Get ready. The 2018 season is six months away and forecasters say it is expected to be another busy season.