Extreme Weather Disasters Take Record Toll in U.S. in 2011

The U.S. has already tied the record for the number of extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in damage in one year, with the cumulative tab so far reaching $35 billion, government officials said. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been nine separate natural disasters causing damages that totaled more than $1 billion, including summer flooding along the Missouri River, a crippling drought across the southern plains and Southwest, and a series of devastating tornadoes across the Midwest in April. “I don’t think it takes a wizard to predict 2011 is likely to go down as one of the more extreme years for weather in history,” Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service, told reporters, noting that the hurricane season has barely begun. While NOAA officials said there is an urgency to make the U.S. more “weather ready,” its administrator, Jane Lubchenco, warned that failure to fund a new satellite would make it impossible to forecast severe weather events far enough in advance to save lives. In Texas, this summer’s record drought has caused an estimated $5.2 billion in crop and livestock losses, by far the largest annual loss in state history.