Nightly News | December 10, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: As we near the end of the year, the people who keep track of the nation's weather say 2011 will go down as a record breaker for a lot of reasons. Among them lives lost and dollars spent. At least a dozen extreme weather events this year have each cost a billion dollars or more. Here's NBC's Tom Costello.
TOM COSTELLO reporting: No one who lived through the tornadoes this spring had ever seen anything like it. From Virginia to Alabama 748 tornadoes in April alone. And then Missouri ...
AL ROKER reporting: There's St. John's Hospital. You can see how damaged it is from up here.
COSTELLO: ...and the E-5 that tore through Joplin . One-hundred-sixty people died in Joplin on May 22nd , the seventh deadliest tornado in history.
Unidentified Man #1: Oh, they just pulled out their dog right -- that is great.
COSTELLO: The first five months of 2011 had already proven to be record breakers . It only got worse.
JIM CANTORE reporting: When you go back and look at the Groundhog Day blizzard and just pretty much go right through the spring weather, severe weather season, and then into the hurricane season, we've had a horrible year.
COSTELLO: In all, nearly 3,000 monthly weather records have been broken so far this year, with NOAA estimating the country sustained 12 weather disasters that cost at least $1 billion or more each. That breaks a record set in 2008 with nine such disasters.
Unidentified Man #2: All that should be underwater.
COSTELLO: First drought, then wildfires ravaged Texas , New Mexico and Arizona . From the Dakotas to the Gulf Coast , massive flooding caused catastrophic damage. Then, in August, Irene raked the East Coast .
Unidentified Man #3: The sand is like a sand blaster.
COSTELLO: North Carolina was hit first, then New Jersey , New York ...
ROKER: Whoa, look at that!
COSTELLO: ...and Vermont. Climatologists blame climate change and shifting global weather patterns for the extremes. And more could be on the way.
Ms. KATHRYN SULLIVAN (NOAA Deputy Administrator): Everything we know about the climate system and its physics say that we will see more frequent extreme events of greater severity and intensity.
COSTELLO: Roughly 1,000 people have died so far in this year's weather disasters . They've cost an estimated $52 billion, but communities are still counting. With the impact zones so often at the intersection of Mother Nature and a growing population, a warning that it could get even costlier and more deadly. Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.