published Friday, December 9th, 2011

U.S. weather disasters in perspective

It has been memorably noted, at least since the late 19th century, that "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Some attribute that remark -- in varying forms -- to Mark Twain, others to a newspaper editor.

Whoever said it, it remains true -- not that anybody really can do much about the weather, beyond prepare for it.

In Chattanooga, of course, we are blessed with a relatively mild climate. Our summers are hot and humid, but usually not terribly so. Our winters may bring a bit of snow and ice, but it's typically not overwhelming and it ordinarily doesn't last long. And spring and fall can be sheer delights in this area.

It is notable, however, that 2011 has produced the highest number on record of weather disasters causing at least $1 billion in damage in the United States. There have been a dozen billion-dollar-or-more disasters related to snow, drought, wildfires, tornadoes and such this year. We sadly recall the April tornado outbreak that claimed scores of lives in this region.

The tragic weather disasters of 2011 should be kept in perspective, however.

It's important to bear in mind a couple of points:

• First, the "record" of a dozen billion-dollar disasters in one year doesn't cover a very long time span. Scientists began keeping track of the annual number of billion-dollar weather disasters only 31 years ago -- in 1980. So the figures don't include years with high numbers of large-scale disasters from 1979 or earlier.

• And second, the total damage -- $52 billion -- of the billion-dollar-plus disasters in 2011 does not come anywhere close to the dollar damage from even some lone catastrophes in previous years. Nor was the death toll from this year's disasters -- more than 600 -- nearly so high as seen in some other years. For instance, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused $145 billion in damage by itself and killed 1,800 people. And a 1928 hurricane killed more than 2,500 people in Florida.

Of course, we are naturally horrified by even a single death caused by extreme weather. But seen in perspective, 2011 has not been as destructive as a number of other years have been.

And from that we can take some comfort, even as we mourn those who have lost their lives in weather calamities this year and help those whose property has been damaged.

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conservative said...

We can't stop the weather but that fact won't stop fools from trying. Socialist government has a high cost. The scheme is to convince sheep that coal produced electricity is causing climate change. A carbon tax is then imposed on coal which is supposed to lessen the opposition to higher electric rates since we are saving the enviornment, the earth or some such nonsense. Obamination has said that electric rates would " necessarily skyrocket" under his plan! Just another reason to vote this socialist out.

December 9, 2011 at 8:22 a.m.
lumpy said...

Very true, Conservative. I think ever since the fall of communism , and even more so now that European socialism is crumbling, the new weapon of choice to restrict freedoms and gain more control over the lives of "the masses"is "climate change". So predictable. Use the "useful idiots" in the media to create a climate of panic and hysteria. Funny how athiests on here attack religion, yet have no problem making sacrifices at the alter of big government, or the new, popular religion, environmentalism.

December 9, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.
LibDem said...

Sometimes you have this editorial space and can't think of a dern thing to write.

I bet that flood that floated Noah's ark cost a few billion shekel.

So, anyway, the world had this craving for widgets and the Americans said, "We don't want no widgets. They're too hard to make. Let the Europeans and Asians make them."

So, the Europeans and Asians made the widgets and a big bunch of money cause they sold good.

And the Americans said, "We'll give you some big old tax incentives and free land if you put your widget assembly plants here cuz we really need the jobs."

December 9, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.
hambone said...

con-serve, lumpy, if the stuff coming out of those smoke stacks you see at coal fired powerhouses was good for you, those stacks wouldn't be 1,000 ft high. They would be at ground level.

BTW Tea Party senator Rand Paul thinks it cures asthma!

December 9, 2011 at 9:38 p.m.
conservative said...

So do want to shut down all coal generated power plants immediately for health reasons? If they are harmful to your health and the health of women and children, why wouldn't you want them shut down immediately? Cars have exhaust, chain saws have exhaust, lawn mowers have exhaust, buses have exhaust, airplanes have exhaust, trains have exhaust, motor cycles have exhaust, ships have exhaust and generators have exhaust, to name some. Are you concerned for your health by these also? Don't you think you benefit from these? I'm confidant you use many of these quite often. You might consider that some would consider you a hypcrite.

December 9, 2011 at 10:10 p.m.
hambone said...

As I have said before, i am retired. But I worked construction for 46 years, some at coal fired powerhouses, nuclear and hydro. I have no problem with coal as long as the best technology is applied.

The regulations for scrubbers to remove mercury and other pollutants were written into law by congress 24 years ago. However, thru millions of dollars of well placed political donations the coal industry has managed to get implimentation these regs. by the EPA delayed time and time again.

Had the power industry installed the equipment in a timely manner their cost would have been much less than it will be now. But they were protecting their bottom line and the investers in a short sighted way. So they are useing politics and a bogus media campaign to keep from doing what is right.

I guess if anything I am mad that they didn't do it when I was still working, it is a good paycheck!

December 9, 2011 at 11:11 p.m.
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