The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) has come out with its annual billion-dollar-disaster summary for 2012 and found it to be the second-costliest year for disaster since 1980, when the agency began totting up annual damages.
Eleven extreme weather and climate disasters costing more than $1 billion each racked up $110 billion in damages during 2012, NOAA announced on June 13. The only year pricier was 2005, which saw Hurricane Katrina and three other devastating storms touch land, for a damage total of $160 billion.
“The 2012 billion-dollar events included seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclone events, and the yearlong drought and its associated wildfires,” NOAA said in a media release. “These 11 events killed over 300 people and had devastating economic effects on the areas impacted. With 11 events, 2012 also ranks second highest in total number of billion-dollar events behind 2011, which had 14 events.”
Superstorm Sandy topped the list of disaster pricetags at $65 billion, NOAA said, with the drought costing $30 billion. Sandy also cost the most number of lives, with 130 people killed, NOAA said. For its part the drought that gripped more than half of Turtle Island throughout most of 2012, along with related heat waves, killed 100 people directly, NOAA said. (Related: Hurricane Sandy Passes, Tribes Begin Assessing Damage)
“Sandy's large size, with tropical storm force winds extending nearly 500 miles from the center, led to record storm surge, large-scale flooding, wind damage, and mass power outages along much of the East Coast,” NOAA said.
The drought was the largest in the U.S. since the 1930s, the agency said. More than 2,600 of the country’s 3,143 counties were declarated drought disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On top of that were the wildfires, which burned more than 9 million acres, or 14,062 square miles, NOAA noted.
More billion-plus-dollar disasters may well be in the making, given the tornadoes that decimated some Oklahoma City suburbs in May and the gigantic wildfires currently raging in California and Colorado. NOAA has already warned of an extremely active hurricane season and told western residents to prepare for more wildfires. (Related: Tropical Storm Andrea Bears Down on Florida as Feisty Hurricane Season Gets Under Way)