This month, we have been seeing a pattern of extreme precipitation in some regions and an extreme lack of precipitation in others. The extreme rain is helping some areas, like California, out of drought, but the rain is a double edged sword as it comes immense flood risks. Meanwhile, Chennai, India is deep in drought, with the entire state affected. Chennai relies heavily on monsoons, but monsoon activity has been extremely weak, less than half of what it should be.
In California, huge amounts of rain wrought from the largest storm in a decade, which had the silver lining of reducing drought, toppled a giant sequoia called the Pioneer Cabin Tree. This is certainly a cultural tragedy. Thousands of people a year flocked to see the tree as well as other trees in the Calaveras Big Tree State Park. Yours truly was hoping to be one of them some day. At least 40 people are dead in Thailand after severe flooding inundated the country’s south. One person is still missing. More than 700,000 people were affected by the fatal weather. What’s more, this heavy rain fell during the dry season in Thailand and neighbouring Malaysia. Malaysia wasn’t quite as devastated, but still faced many closures and left thousands displaced.
In Colorado and Sierra, Nevada, some ski resorts have had to shut down because they have too much snow. You read that right. There has been a recent dump of over five ft (1.5 m), which brings with it a serious risk of avalanches. Also, that much snow on the road is extremely dangerous even with winter tires, so one resort was forced to close because it could not be accessed. Winter weather has proven incredibly dangerous throughout the Midwest, with slippery conditions causing hundreds of crashes including a 20 car pileup. There have been at least six fatalities from traffic incidents. Several states declared states of emergency. There were also a number of injuries and near misses. In Oklahoma, over 10,000 people were left without power after an inch (30 mm) of ice accumulated on trees. In Texas, there were two tornados, which are rare in winter, and hail as large as teacups near Rockspring, and softball sized hail near Medina. That softball sized hail was incredibly damaging to car bodies. There were also damaging flash floods.
In other news, a wildfire in Chile near Santiago has scorched 19,000 hectares (73 square miles.) Military officials and firefighters are still working to get that blaze under control. At least 100 homes have burned and at least 400 people have been evacuated, including 160 inmates at a women’s prison in Santiago.
Last year the sheer number of weather-related disasters caused $144 billion in damage. That is an average of over $500 million being lost per day. That is truly staggering! Most of the damage, only a fraction of which was insured, was unleashed by floods last year.