It seems we can't go a year without a number of super storms and weather or climate-related disasters impacting a region of the United States. 2012 was especially memorable, as it was the second costliest year for weather and climate-related disasters since 1980, according to the Climatic Data Center.
During the historic 2012 year, the U.S. experienced 11 weather and climate disaster events – each with losses exceeding $1 billion in damages, with a total of more than $110 billion in damages during the course of the 12 months. These 11 events were broken up into seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclone events and a yearlong drought and associated wildfires. According to NOAA, these 11 disasters killed over 300 people and had devastating economic impacts on the areas covered by the storm paths.
In fact, the drought experienced throughout the year caused considerable damage – more than most storms. The NOAA reported that the 2012 drought was the second longest in history since the 1930s. U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Disaster Declarations also reached more than 2,600 of the Nation's 3,143 counties. It wasn't just agricultural areas and production that were impacted by the drought, the wildfires partially caused or spurred on by dry land and wind burned over 9 million acres. The drought was only second to Hurricane Sandy in cost to the nation, with $30 billion and $65 billion in losses, respectively.
Wild land and urban fires are increasing in cost – both in terms of fighting the blazes and damages. Fierce Homeland Security reported that a paper from Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group, has determined that six of the worst fire seasons of the past 50 years have occurred in the last decade. Prior to 2000, the Federal Emergency Management Agency responded to 11 major emergency wildfire disaster declarations. So far, since then, the agency was found necessary for 19 declaration of emergency due to wildfires.
In addition, FEMA emergency grants pay up to 75 percent of state costs for controlling major fires. With all of these wildfire outbreaks, it's imperative that extra manpower is added to combat spreading flames and destruction. Increased training will help educate firefighters and forestry professionals, allowing them to stay current with best procedures and try to keep the flames contained and the destruction minimal.
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