Remembering 2012 Through Billion-Dollar Disasters
As I sit down to write this blog I struggle to come up with an appropriate place to start. This last year contained an enormous number of events and tragedies that many, myself included, will be happy to leave in the past and hope for better things to come in 2013. On this last day of 2012 and with no severe weather expected I want to simply focus on the weather/climate events that occurred this year in which the resulting damage amounted to at least $1 Billion.
The information below was provided by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC. The NCDC keeps tabs on and analyzes climate events in the U.S. and globally that have great economic and societal impacts.
This year there were 11 billion-dollar disasters. Seven of the 11 events were severe weather or tornado events, two were related to hurricanes/post tropical cyclones and two were the year-long drought and associated wildfires. In 2011 there were 14 total billion-dollar disasters. Since 1980, when the NCDC began keeping these records, the U.S. has sustained 144 weather/climate disasters where the damages/costs reached at least $1 billion.
1 – U.S. DROUGHT/HEAT WAVE (2012)
The 2012 drought is the most extensive drought to affect the U.S. since the 1930′s. Drought conditions have affected more than half the country for a majority of 2012: (CA, NV, ID, MT, WY, UT, CO, AZ, NM, TX, ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, AR, MO, IA, MN, IL, IN, GA). Drought impacts are most costly across the central agriculture states resulting in widespread harvest failure for corn, sorghum and soybean crops, among others. The associated summer heatwave also caused 123 direct deaths, but an estimate of the excess mortality due to heat stress is still unknown; 123 Deaths.
2 – SOUTHEAST/OHIO VALLEY TORNADOES (March 2nd-3rd)
Outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather over the southeast and Ohio Valley (AL, GA, IN, OH, KY, TN) with 75 confirmed tornadoes; 42 Deaths.
3 – TEXAS TORNADOES (April 2nd-3rd)
Outbreak of tornadoes across the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area. Several moderate strength tornadoes (EF-2 and EF-3) affected towns in this area with a total of 22 confirmed tornadoes.
4 – MIDWEST TORNADOES (April 13th-14th)
Outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather over the Midwest (OK, KS, NE, IA) with 98 confirmed tornadoes including many tornadoes that remained on the ground for an extended time – traveling tens of miles; 6 Deaths.
5 – MIDWEST/OHIO VALLEY SEVERE WEATHER (April 28th-May 1st)
Severe weather over the Midwest and Ohio Valley (TX, OK, KS, MO, IL, IN, KY) with 38 confirmed tornadoes. Considerable damage resulting from hail; 1 Death.
6 – SOUTHERN PLAINS/MIDWEST/NORTHEAST SEVERE WEATHER (May 25th-30th)
Severe storms over the southern plains, Midwest and northeast (TX, OK, KS, MN, PA, NY) with 27 confirmed tornadoes. Significant damage also from severe hail and straight-line winds; 1 Death.
7 – ROCKIES/SOUTHWEST SEVERE WEATHER ( June 6th-12th)
Severe storms and damaging hail over several states (CO, NM, TX) with 25 confirmed tornadoes. Colorado experienced over $1.0 billion in damage due to hail.
8 – PLAINS/EAST/NORTHEAST SEVERE WEATHER (June 29th-July 2)
Sustained outbreak of thunderstorms / high winds from a strong derecho event over the central, eastern, and northeastern states (IL, IN, KY, OH, WV, SC, NC, VA, MD, DC, NJ); 28 Deaths.
9 – HURRICANE ISAAC (AUGUST)
Category 1 hurricane made landfall over Louisiana. Isaac’s slow motion and large size led to a large storm surge and flooding rains. This created damage across several southeastern states (LA, MS, AL, FL); 9 Deaths.
10 – HURRICANE SANDY (OCTOBER)
Extensive damage across several northeastern states (MD, DE, NJ, NY, CT, MA, RI) due to high wind and coastal storm surge, particularly NY and NJ. Damage from wind, rain and heavy snow also extended more broadly to other states (NC, VA, WV, OH, PA, NH), as Sandy merged with a developing Nor’easter. Sandy’s impact on major population centers caused widespread interruption to critical water / electrical services and also caused 131 deaths. Sandy also caused the New York Stock Exchange to close for two consecutive business days, which last happened in 1888 due to a major winter storm; 131 Deaths.
11 – WESTERN WILDFIRES (SUMMER-FALL)
Wildfires burned over 9.1 million acres across the U.S. in 2012. This is the 2nd highest annual total since the year 2000, only exceeded by 2006 when 9.4 million acres burned. The most damaging wildfires occurred in the western states (CO, ID, WY, MT, CA, NV, OR, WA). Colorado experienced the most costly wildfires (e.g., Waldo Canyon fire) where several hundred residences were destroyed; 8 Deaths.
The total damage/cost for most of the events are still being calculated, but the main drivers in the nation’s overall weather disaster cost is Sandy and the Drought. NCDC calculates, however that 2012 will surpass 2011 in terms of aggregate costs for annual billion-dollar disasters even though 2011 experienced more billion-dollar disasters. 2005 had the greatest annual loss of $187.2 billion.
There is no doubt that 2013 will bring more weather/climate disasters and while we cannot prevent them from occurring we can certainly begin to prepare. Make it your New Year’s resolution to formulate your severe weather action plan for you and your family. Don’t be caught saying, “I never thought it would happen to me”.
That being said, here’s to a happy and safe 2013. Happy New Year everybody!
Until next time…