US pays high price for climate change-induced weather disasters

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(NEW YORK) – The weather around the world and in the United States has become increasingly severe, with Americans seeing a steady increase in tornado events since 1950. More than 900 tornadoes have been confirmed since Jan. 1, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, tornadoes are not the only serious weather event leaving a trail of destruction behind. Tropical storms and hurricanes have also wreaked havoc, amassing billions of dollars in damage. Since 1980, when NOAA began calculating global damage costs, the United States has seen more than 300 extreme weather events rack up bills of over $ 1 billion each. Collectively, these events have exceeded $ 2 trillion.

In 2020, there were 22 weather and climate disasters totaling $ 1 billion, a new record. It also marked the 10th consecutive year that the country has experienced at least eight disasters with billion dollar tabs.

Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana in August, becoming the third hurricane in history to make landfall in the state with winds of at least 150 mph. Hurricane Laura in 2020 and Hurricane “Last Island” of 1856 are the other two. Ida’s costs are expected to exceed $ 64 billion, making it the second most devastating hurricane in Louisiana, behind Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the most recent disasters could have been worse as a system of valves, pumps and dikes costing more than $ 14 billion was put to the test, preventing similar catastrophic flooding to those caused by Katrina.

“Our dikes have worked really well,” he said, adding: “There were a few small dikes that were passed… but they did not fail.”

Yet more than a million people in Louisiana were left without power, more than 90 people were killed in eight states, and Ida’s remains crippled parts of the northeast. New York City triggered a lightning food emergency for the first time in history, and Central Park recorded a record 3.15 inches of rain in a single hour, according to the National Weather Service.

“You have to meet a threshold of $ 30 million in order to qualify for additional assistance from FEMA. We have broken that number. We have at least $ 50 million in damages, ”said New York Governor Kathy Hochul. “Because of climate change, unfortunately, it’s something we’re going to have to deal with with great regularity. “

Texas was plunged into a deep frost in February after historically low temperatures and multiple severe winter storms swept through the northwest, central and eastern states, causing a catastrophic power outage. Millions of people have suffered without heating or clean water, and more than 125 people have been killed in Texas alone. NOAA reports that it is the costliest US winter storm on record at over $ 20 billion, eclipsing the “storm of the century” of 1993.

Memories of being left out in the cold and dark are still fresh for those like Houston resident Michael Ashby, telling ABC News: “Our temperature in the house has dropped from 80 degrees, all the way down to 45. So, we were just huddled together, bundled up. “

Tornadoes, hurricanes and even Texas deep frost share a common source according to Stanford University climatologist Noah Diffenbaugh.

“The heat in the upper layers of the ocean is increasing. This provides more energy for storms. We’re not only seeing stronger storms, but also this rapid intensification of storms, ”Diffenbaugh said.

More than 530 people have died this year from severe weather events costing around $ 350 billion, according to government meteorologists.

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