Wednesday, July 18, 2012

As drought punishes, some Americans reeling from billion-dollar hail damage

Robert Krier in InsideClimate News: While the nation is fixated on the punishing heat and drought gripping the United States, parts of the country are still coping with losses from another blast of extreme weather that battered their cities, towns and farms this spring: hailstorms.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said there were about 500 more reports of one-inch diameter or larger hail the first half of this year than the 2005-2011 average. Property damage from just two intense hailstorms that hit large cities could exceed $1.5 billion.

Is this year's hail onslaught a sign of things to come in a warming world? Much uncertainty remains about climate change's impact on future hailstorms, with some scientists saying there could be fewer of them, and others predicting even more damage in the future.

To call some of this year's hailstorms "extreme" might be putting it mildly. Here's a recap of just a few of them:
  • On April 12, pea-sized hail pelted northern Texas near Amarillo. Nothing remarkable there—except the volume. There was so much, mixed with rain, that snowplows had to be called out to clear 4-foot-high drifts.
  • Two days later, another high-volume storm, the likes of which long-time residents said they'd never seen before, inundated Norfolk, Neb., leaving 3-foot drifts in spots.
  • On April 28, baseball- to softball-sized hail pummeled the St. Louis area. About 50,000 cars were damaged. Individual insurance claims, including for home roofs and sidings, could top 80,000 in Missouri, according to the property claims services unit of Verisk Analytics. Insured losses are estimated at $450 million, but the total loss should be much higher when uninsured damage is included....
After a hail storm, shot by quinn norton, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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