According to the National Climatic Data Center’s(NCDC) 2012 weather and climate disasters information, 2012 saw 11 weather and climate disaster events each with losses exceeding $1 billion in damages. This makes 2012 the second costliest year since 1980, with a total of more than $110 billion in damages throughout the year. The 2012 total damages rank only behind 2005, which incurred $160 billion in damages due in part to four devastating land-falling hurricanes.
The 2012 billion-dollar events included seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclone events, and the yearlong drought and its associated wildfires. 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.
The two major drivers of the damage costs in 2012 were Sandy at approximately $65 billion and the yearlong drought at approximately $30 billion. 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.
The yearlong drought, which affected more than half the country for the majority of 2012, was the largest drought extent in the United States since the 1930s. U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Disaster Declarations reached more than 2,600 of the Nation’s 3,143 counties. While drought impacts are often most costly to agricultural centers, their conditions also led to several devastating wildfires that burned over 9 million acres nationwide during 2012.