June 13, 2013
Wild Weather In 2012 Makes For Second Costliest Year In History
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has crunched the numbers and has a final figure. According to the data, a year of wild weather made 2012 the second costliest year since 1980, incurring overall damages in the billions. A total of 11 weather and climate disasters hit the US hard last year, resulting in 377 deaths and $110 billion in damages.
2012 played out like other years, delivering severe storms and tornadoes in the spring, dry conditions and wildfires in the summer, and hurricanes later in the year. What made 2012 so different from years past is the severity of each of these weather events and the areas which they struck. For instance, the first of these weather disasters struck on March 2 and 3 as tornadoes bore down on the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. There were several unique aspects to these March storms. A total of 45 tornadoes hit neighborhoods in an area from Alabama, Ohio, Virginia and states in between, 13 of which were rated as an EF-3 or higher.
This is an area which isn´t completely unfamiliar with tornadic activity, but storms with this breadth and such strong severity are becoming more common as the world´s weather becomes even more unpredictable. In fact, following last year´s storms one Californian risk and management company called CoreLogic issued a report which suggested expanding what´s commonly referred to as “Tornado Alley” to cover the majority of the deep south and up into areas in western Ohio. To make matters worse, these March storms delivered several inches of snow after tornadoes and high winds destroyed much of the region.
More tornadoes struck Texas, Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest in April, areas which are accustomed to these weather patterns.
Colorado and other parts of the West were then ravaged by wildfires following a dry winter wherein only 13 percent of the average precipitation fell. When average total temperatures reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with very low humidity, conditions were ripe for wildfires.
More than 12 wildfires burned across the Centennial State, some of which were started by lightning and some even by arsonists. The Waldo Canyon fire began after a dry thunderstorm produced lightning which ignited a wooded area 10 miles northwest of Colorado Springs on June 23rd. High winds spread the fire quickly, leading to the evacuation of over 32,000 residents in the Colorado Springs area, including partial evacuation of the US Air Force Academy.
All told, more than 15,000 acres (or 24 square miles) had been burned in this fire. The High Park fire struck the mountain town of Fort Collins, Colorado earlier in the month, killing an elderly woman and destroying up to 136 square miles (or 87,250 acres) of land. This fire became the most destructive fire in Colorado history and the second largest in state history as well.