Dis­as­trous start to year for U.S. weather, with 3 $1 bil­lion events

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Doyle Rice

Weather­wise, it’s al­ready been a dis­as­trous start to the year in the U.S., even be­fore the tor­nado sea­son ramps up and long be­fore any di­rect hits from hur­ri­canes.

In just the first three months of year, the U.S. has en­dured three sep­a­rate weather dis­as­ters that each caused at least $1 bil­lion in dam­ages, the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NOAA) an­nounced Fri­day.

The events in­cluded a se­vere storm out­break in the South­east in March and two win­ter storms in the cen­tral and eastern U.S. in Jan­uary and March.

At $1.8 bil­lion in dam­ages, the costli­est event so far was the nor’easter that wal­loped the North­east on March 1-3, killing nine peo­ple. The dam­age from the storm was due to high winds, heavy snow and coastal ero­sion, NOAA said.

A win­ter storm that hit the cen­tral and eastern U.S. in early Jan­uary caused $1 bil­lion in dam­ages and killed 22 peo­ple.

The South’s se­vere storm out­break in mid-March, which killed three, brought more than 20 tor­na­does across Alabama and Ge­or­gia and also widespread hail dam­age from Texas to Florida.

The av­er­age an­nual num­ber of bil­lion-dol­lar dis­as­ters in the U.S., based on data from 1980 to 2017, is six. 2017 had a whop­ping 16 sep­a­rate dis­as­ters, which tied 2011 for the most ever.

“More no­table than the high fre­quency of these events was the cu­mu­la­tive cost, which ex­ceeded $300 bil­lion in 2017 — a new U.S. an­nual record,” NOAA said.

March was unusu­ally cool across much of the na­tion, In fact, some lo­ca­tions had March tem­per­a­tures that were cooler than Fe­bru­ary, an “un­usual but not un­prece­dented oc­cur­rence,” NOAA said.

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