The number of Americans registered for federal disaster aid jumped tenfold this year, costing billions of dollars in additional emergency funding as the nation nears the end of a historically calamitous year. More than 4.7 million Americans – or about 1.4 percent of the population – have registered so far this year for disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In 2016, 480,000 sought aid, and fewer than 180,000 people registered for disaster assistance in each of the three previous years.

Three hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – collectively affected an area with about 8 percent of the U.S. population. The hurricanes were followed by wildfires that killed 43 people and destroyed more than 7,000 homes here in wine country. The record-setting disasters – combined with other storms, floods, mudslides and blazes that struck communities across the United States this year – have taxed emergency resources and left residents struggling to rebuild their lives long after the floods have receded and the flames have stopped burning. READ MORE