DENVER - 11 billion dollar disasters affected the United States this past year, 3 hurting Colorado directly. Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing drought are most costly, and the price tag for those disasters aren't done climbing.
Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc from the Caribbean to the Atlantic Coast and up into New England. So far costing $62 billion, but that number is increasing. Sandy is responsible for killing 131, directly influencing 7 states MD, DE, NJ, NY, CT, MA, RI with flooding rain, storm surge, and wind damage. The New York Stock Exchange was forced to close for two consecutive days, which had not happened since 1888 following a major blizzard.
Another tropical system, Isaac, spread flooding across the southern states, mostly in Louisiana, and unfortunately killed 9.
The on-going U.S. drought is the second costliest of the year -- currently estimated at $40 billion. This drought effects much of the nation, but in particular CA, NV, ID, MT, WY, UT, CO, AZ, NM, TX, ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, AR, MO, IA, MN, IL, IN, and GA. Many crops failed in the agricultural states, and 123 deaths are attributed to the heat associated with the drought.
Relating closely to Colorado were the western wildfires. Over 9 million acres burned in 2012, the 2nd highest land loss since 2006 (9.4million acres). All western states were affected, but Colorado experienced the most costly wildfires losing several hundred homes across the state, most in the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs. Sadly, 8 lives were lost to the western wildfires.
Although the year ended with a rare few tornadoes, that doesn't mean the destruction from the few wasn't costly. Seven severe weather events reached the billion dollar mark this year. June 29 to July 2 wind damage raged across the northeast from Illinois to Washington DC -- this derecho event killed 28. From June 6th through the 12th Colorado suffered $1 billion dollars worth of hail damage; that and 25 tornadoes stretched into New Mexico and Texas. Tornadoes, wind and hail from May 25-30th from TX, OK, KS, MN, PA, and NY claimed only 1 life, but left widespread damage. In late April over 30 tornadoes were part of a tornado and hail outbreak from the midwest and into the Ohio Valley (only 1 death as a result). On the 13th and 14th of April another outbreak of nearly 100 tornadoes swept through OK, KS, NE, and IA killed 6. Although costly, the tornadoes in Dallas-Ft Worth on April 2nd and 3rd thankfully didn't kill anyone. However, not so lucky with the season's first severe weather outbreak, the third deadliest event of the year, killed 42 as tornadoes ripped through the southeastern US and the Ohio Valley.
As costs from Sandy and the drought climb, it is likely that 2012 will be the costliest weather year ever for the United States. Further, as Sandy's costs pile up she will likely be the 2nd most expensive event just behind Hurricane Katrina that racked up over $100 billion and killed more than 1,800 people.
Natural disasters will happen, there's no way to avoid them. However, higher levels of public awareness can help protect lives. Research is being done to try and quantify how much social media is helping spread the word on severe weather awareness, but we are already seeing that social media plays a huge roll in peoples' safety.