Deadly March tornadoes were first billion-dollar disaster of 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012
By Paul Martin
April 14, 2012

CHICAGO – A swarm of tornadoes that tore through the Midwest and Southeast in early March has earned the grim title of the nation’s first billion-dollar weather disaster of 2012. From March 2 through the early hours of March 3, 132 tornadoes were reported across nine states. Although those numbers are preliminary, and will undoubtedly decrease once overlapping reports are eliminated, their aftermath was devastating, causing more than $1.5 billion in damage and killing 40 people. The storms killed four people in Ohio, but they took the greatest toll in Indiana, killing 13, and Kentucky, where 23 people died. The costly disaster follows on the heels of a record-breaking year for devastation wrought by the vagaries of the weather and longer-term climate conditions. Last year, the United States experienced 14 separate events that caused $1 billion or more in damage. Five of those events were tornado outbreaks. This year’s early March tornado outbreak was significant for a number of reasons, according to Jake Crouch, a climatologist with the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), and co-author of a new State of the Climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released today (April 9). Atmospheric conditions that made for unseasonably warm temperatures in late February and early March across huge swaths of the United States allowed warm, moist air up to areas where it could collide with cold, drier air, Crouch said, a key ingredient for severe weather. –Scientific American

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