2012: A Costly Year for Weather Disasters in the U.S.

While 2011 established a record for the number of individual U.S. weather disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage, 2012 is expected to eclipse 2011 in terms of the aggregate amount of damage done (in terms of dollars). This is according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

The government estimates that there were $11 billion-plus weather disasters this year, after 14 such disasters in 2011. Cumulative damage totals are expected to exceed $60 billion.

The most dramatic weather event of the year, of course, was Hurricane Sandy that hit the mid-Atlantic region and Northeast with fury in late October. Sandy killed 131 people, and early estimates of damage were set at close to $50 billion.

One major weather disaster--a widespread and intense drought -- has persisted all year. At its peak, the drought affected more than half of the nation and was accompanied by intense and, sometimes, deadly heat during the summer. It's estimated that the drought and heatwaves were responsible for 123 deaths, along with billions of dollars in agricultural losses.

Extreme-to exceptional-drought conditions (the worst category) continue in much of the middle of the nation.


The drought played a major role in the second worst fire season since 2000 in the western U.S., where over nine million acres were burned and eight people were killed. Several hundred homes were destroyed in Colorado's Waldo Canyon fire alone.

Other weather disasters that are estimated to have caused at least a billion dollars in damage were Hurricane Isaac, which hit the Louisiana coast in August, and seven outbreaks of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that occurred from late winter through the summer.

Isaac killed nine and caused major flooding in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The most deadly tornado outbreak occurred in the Southeast and Ohio Valley on March 3; 42 fatalities were caused by 75 confirmed tornadoes.