Extreme Weather Events Aren't New... But They Are Getting Worse

If you look at a list of average temperatures for various areas across the country, they seem pretty... well, average.

Same with average amounts of rainfall and snowfall. And ditto with typical wind speeds. The "average" day everywhere in the U.S. is certainly tolerable.

But it's not the average days we need to be concerned about. It's the extreme days. They don't come every week or every month, but usually arrive several times each year. And the problems they cause have negative impacts on our lives. For days, weeks and even months.

For decades, we've seen time and time again how extreme weather shakes our way of life. Today, I'd like to share some of the worst weather experiences America has ever had.

Cold, Heat, Rain and Wind

To start, let's go back to early 1971. The temperature plummeted to a bone-chilling 80 degrees below zero in Prospect Creek, Alaska. Seventeen years earlier, the temperature in Rogers Pass, Montana dropped to minus 70.

Extreme heat is just as big of a problem. In 1913, Death Valley, California recorded a temp of 134. Phoenix broke a record for highest temperature in a large U.S. city in 1994 ‚Äď 128 degrees.

Alvin, Texas is the "winner" for most rain in a 24-hour period. They got 43 inches on July 25, 1979. Burnsville, West Virginia received 13.8 inches of rain in one hour in 1943. Flooding killed 23 people.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew produced wind speeds of 177 miles per hour. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 topped that at 185 mph.

Thousands Dead or Displaced

The Tri-State tornado in 1925 reached a width of almost a mile. It killed nearly 700 people, injured 2,000 and destroyed 15,000 homes.

In 1900, the Galveston, Texas hurricane produced a huge storm surge that cost some 8,000 people their lives.

The eight-year Dust Bowl drought in the 1930s drove millions of Midwesterners from their homes.

The Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood of 1889 killed more than 2,200 people following the collapse of a dam.

Newest States Are Baking

Violent weather picked up during the just-ended decade. Not only in the number of extreme weather events. But also in their intensity.

In 2019, our 49th and 50th states experienced extreme heat. The average temperature for the year in Alaska was warmer than it's been in recorded history.

Average wintertime temperatures in Alaska are now 5 degrees warmer than 50 years ago. And much of the ice around the state is disappearing.

In 2019, Honolulu had 29 days between June and August with record high temps. Over a 20-day stretch, Lihue broke high temperature records every day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Midwest reeled from a polar vortex in 2019. It was 23 degrees below zero in Chicago, with 50 below wind chills.

Michael and the Camp Fire

The big weather stories in 2018 were Hurricane Michael and California's Camp Fire. Both caused dozens of deaths.

Michael was the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland since Andrew in 1992. It was blamed for 49 deaths and more than $5.5 billion in damages.

Winds reached 160 mph in Florida, bringing water up to 20 feet above high-tide levels.

The Camp Fire was the deadliest wildfire in California history. It killed 85 people and destroyed 14,000 homes. Flames scorched more than 150,000 acres of land.

Hurricanes Ravage Puerto Rico

Other extreme weather-related events last decade include Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017.

Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane and broke the U.S. rainfall record for a tropical storm. In the town of Nederland, 60-plus inches of rain were recorded.

Category 5 Maria crushed Puerto Rico. It caused some 3,000 deaths and decimated the U.S. territory's electrical grid.

Making a nearly hopeless situation worse was that island residents were already repairing the damage Hurricane Irma caused two weeks earlier.

Never Seems to End

The previous year, Hurricane Matthew produced massive flooding in the Carolinas. Hurricane Florence compounded the problem in 2018.

Within a three-week span in 2015, Boston, Massachusetts experienced four snowstorms with at least one foot of snow each.

Two years earlier, Oklahoma had 63 tornadoes in May. The first was three-quarters of a mile wide, wiping out sections of Moore.

The year 2012 saw Hurricane Sandy cause massive devastation. More than 100 people died and $65 billion in damages resulted.

A tornado in 2011 crushed Joplin, Missouri. Other tornadoes in the outbreak wiped several Alabama communities off the map.

Time to Get Prepared

Anyone who thinks extreme weather events in the U.S. have run their course isn't playing with a full deck.

These events are on the increase. And they're going to continue wreaking havoc with our food supply and water safety. Plus our air quality and the electrical grid.

It's up to us to be aware and get prepared. We owe it to ourselves and our families to get ready for the next weather emergency.

It could be right around the corner.



  • BOB - January 31, 2020

    Except for your reference to the recent temperature changes in Alaska and Hawaii, I’m not sure you have made a convincing point that sever weather events are increasing. Some of the events you mentioned were a very long time ago. Other more recent ones were extreme but not reported as unprecedented.

    On important factor is that we do not have accurate records of rainfall, snowfall and high and low temperatures from a long time ago with which to directly compare current events. For example, we don’t really know how cold it was in Montana back in the early 1800s.

    I believe the greatest natural disaster on US records is still the 1900 hurricane in Galveston in which around 8,000 or more died.

    The IPCC in 2018 stated that extreme weather events are not increasing. See this link: https://www.thegwpf.com/ipcc-report-extreme-weather-events-not-getting-worse/

    It is a good idea to be prepared for extreme weather, but not because it is any more extreme now than it was in your great grandpaw’s time.

  • Alvin Griffis - January 31, 2020

    I ordered 4 of the Power Cells. My wife has a live changing medical device that need to be recharged daily. She finds it so easy to use the Power Cell where ever she is with out being fixed in one place while charging. It can even be used when we travel. Nice surprise for her.
    Thank you.

  • sally - January 30, 2020

    this new weather is man made. We have had the ability to change weather for 20 years or so…the Saudis are planning to make green the desert this next year. But now we are using weather as a weaponized tool . Here is Ca. gov. Newsom wants his high speed train exactly where all the fires have moved people out of the area. This land is cheap now..He has also made our farm area arid and unproductive…ergo people are selling their farms to the government agents for cheap. those in the know are making it rich on the backs of hard working families. Please tell me this is so obvious to you. Everyone is not naive.

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