USA 2011: Land of weather extremes

11 “Billion Dollar Weather Disasters” in the USA in 2011

It’s that time of year when lists start to fly brimming with highlights from 2011.

2011 has been a year of weather extremes in the USA. From incredible tornado “super outbreaks” to the most devastating drought in Texas’ history, this has been a wild year.

We’ll talk more about some of Minnesota’s top weather events of 2011 in the coming days, but here is the list of “billion dollar weather disasters” in 2011 from NOAA.

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The infamous “Groundhog Day Blizzard” dumps feet of snow in Chicago in February 2011.

This animation shows GOES-East satellite infrared water vapor imagery from January 29 -February 1, 2011. The GOES satellites provide visible and infrared imagery of the U.S. every 15 minutes. The blue colored areas show the most intense, moist areas of the atmosphere that are responsible for these major precipitation events. Also included, at the end, is the snow precipitation amounts from Jan 31 – Feb 1, 2011.

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Tornado devestation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Major Tornado Outbreak Impacts Southeast U.S. – April 26, 2011

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Tornado “footprint” tears through Tuscaloosa.

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Torndic supercells over Joplin, Missouri

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NWS radar loop as tornadoes tear through Joplin

July Heat Wave Sweeps Across the U.S.

A shroud of high pressure takes a foot-hold over the U.S. from the Plains to the Northeast, with temperatures well into the 90’s and 100’s for half of the country. This animation shows the predicted daily high temperatures from NOAA’s high resolution North American Model (NAM) from July 13-21, 2011.

Extreme Weather 2011Mississippi River flooding

Spring-Summer, 2011

Persistent rainfall (nearly 300 percent normal precipitation amounts in the Ohio Valley) combined with melting snowpack caused historical flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Estimated economic losses range from $3-4 billion. The high flood risk along the Mississippi River was highlighted in the National Weather Service’s annual spring flood outlook, and the agency closely coordinated with local, state and federal agencies before and during the flooding, so that emergency officials could make important decisions to best protect life and limit property damage.

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Hurricane Irene

August 20-29, 2011

Irene first struck the U.S. as a Category 1 hurricane in eastern North Carolina, then moved northward along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Wind damage in coastal North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland was moderate, with considerable damage resulting from falling trees and power lines. Irene made its final landfall as a tropical storm in the New York City area and dropped torrential rainfall in the Northeast that caused widespread flooding. More than 7 million homes and businesses lost power during the storm, and Irene caused at least 45 deaths and more than $7.3 billion in damages.

Irene was the first hurricane to hit the U.S. since Ike in September 2008 and was the most significant tropical system to make a direct landfall in the Northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991.


  • Christine

    Thank you for reminding us of the record-breaking severe weather events of 2011. However, I am disappointed that you did not find it important to mention that these events occurred in the context of the warmest global temperatures on record. As science has shown over and over, along with global climate change comes ever increasing severe weather events. There now is also evidence for increased seismic activity related to global warming. If we fail to tie these events together and connect the dots to human effect on climate, we are failing the future of the planet. We are virtually assuring that our grandchildren and their children’s children will inherit a planet unfit for life. What a monstrous thing to contemplate, but contemplate and act we must. Time is running out. Thank you for your thoughtful attention to this matter.