83rd Annual

Wednesday, 12 February 2003: 9:00 AM
Damaging Freezing Rainstorms in the United States, 19492000
Stanley Changnon, Changnon Climatologist, Mahomet, IL
Freezing rainstorms in the U.S. during 1949-2000 resulted in 87 catastrophic events, storms causing property losses >$1million. The resulting total losses were $16.3 billion. Catastrophes and their losses were greatest in the northeast, southeast, and central U.S., and only 3% occurred in the nation's west. The number of severe catastrophes woth losses >$35 million peaked in 1993-2000. National losses from ice storm catastrophes had a U-shaped temporal distribution. There were $3 billion in losses in 1949-53; less than $1 billion in each 4-yr period from 1953 through 1992; and then $5.8 billion in 1993-2000. Catastrophe losses in the nation's western third were infrequent but most have occurred since 1980. Temporal fluctuations in catastrophes in the south and southeast agreed with shifts in freezing rain days until 1990. Thereafter, ice storm catastrophes experienced major increases but days did not. The recent increase in catastrophes, particularly in the fast growing areas of the nation, reflects increasing societal vulnerability to ice storm damages.

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