2011 sets record for billion-dollar disasters

A year that has rewritten many records linked to violent weather has added another record: the most billion-dollar disasters in American history.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week added two more billion-dollar disasters to this year’s list, bringing the total to 12.

That’s three more than 2008, and NOAA officials are still gathering damage figures for Tropical Storm Lee and the snowstorm that struck the northeastern United States just before Halloween.

The number of billion-dollar disasters nationally this year is “quite alarming,” said Chance Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita.

They have spanned the spectrum, from killer tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast to massive flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to widespread drought and wildfires in the Southern Plains.

Kansas is included in half of the disasters: four tornado outbreaks, the flooding along the Missouri River and the southern Plains drought that saw Wichita set a record for most 100-degree days in a single year.

“Was 2011 an anomaly? Probably so,” Hayes said. “We just had a lot of populated areas that were affected this year, as opposed to other years.”

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