NOAA officially announces 9th billion-dollar weather disaster of 2011
In a press release this morning, NOAA officially announced the 9th billion dollar weather disaster of 2011: the Upper Midwest flooding. From the National Climatic Data Center's preliminary 2011 report:
"Melting of an above-average snow pack across the Northern Rocky Mountains combined with above-average precipitation caused the Missouri and Souris Rivers to swell beyond their banks across the Upper Midwest (MT, ND, SD, NE, IA, KS, MO). An estimated 11,000 people were forced to evacuate Minot, North Dakota due to the record high water level of the Souris River, where 4,000 homes were flooded. Numerous levees were breached along the Missouri River, flooding thousands of acres of farmland. Estimated losses exceed $2.0 billion as the event continues to unfold (as of 8/15). The flooding also stretched into the Canadian Prairies, where property and agriculture losses were expected to surpass $1.0 billion, at least 5 deaths."
Billion-dollar weather disasters, 1980 to 2011 year-to-date. Source: NCDC.
2011 is now tied with all of 2008 for the number of billion dollar weather disasters. So far this year (through August 15), the NCDC estimates that these disasters have cost around $35 billion dollars—a total that will surely increase not only as the Missouri River flood unfolds, but also as we approach the active period of this year's hurricane season. A typical year-to-date cost for weather related disasters in this country is around $6 billion dollars. 2005 was the most expensive year, and the majority of that $150 billion+ total is due to the year's incredible hurricane season. It's unlikely that 2011 will meet 2005's damage amount, but it is at least in contention with 2008's, which was around $50 billion.
NOAA also announced the intent to launch a "comprehensive initiative to build a 'Weather-ready' nation" in light of the extreme weather the U.S. has seen over the past few years, but especially in 2011. This initiative plans to address a number of weather-related disasters that we're becoming increasingly vulnerable to, including tornadoes, heat waves, flooding, hurricanes, and solar storms that threaten electronics and communications. More about this initiative in the press release.