On Dec. 21, 2012, according to an ancient Mayan prophecy, all the planets in our galaxy will align, activating a chain reaction of strange weather patterns and perhaps the end of life on Earth as we know it. While astronomers and other experts roundly dismiss the Mayan prophecy, the increasing frequency of bizarre weather patterns on the planet – most recently Hurricane Sandy, the “Frankenstorm” – makes us wonder if the Mayans weren’t on to something.
Take a look back at just a few of the many bizarre, foreboding weather events that took place this year:
Tornado outbreak (Feb. 28-March 3)
Only two months into the year, two large storm systems developed in the U.S., spawning a series of deadly tornadoes across more than 7 states. In just one week, the National Weather Service issued more than 400 tornado warnings, with some storms generating winds of 180 mph. On Leap Day, 36 tornadoes tore through three states, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses in their paths. The unusually warm weather and the rare development of large storm systems in such proximity contributed to this 2012 outbreak, shattering records of tornado activity in the U.S. for that time of year.
Hail in Hawaii (March)
In more than 60 years of record-keeping in Hawaii, hail has been reported only eight times. The record for the largest hailstone before this year had a diameter of one inch – only a little larger than a quarter. However, in March, several areas of Hawaii were pelted with record-breaking hail the size of grapefruits. The unprecedented 4-inch hailstones were produced as a result of an extremely rare supercell thunderstorm on the coast of Oahu, which also spawned a waterspout tornado that tracked inland for 1.5 miles at speeds of 60-70 mph.
Record summer heat waves (May-August)
The summer made history with one of the hottest early summer heat waves ever recorded. In June, more than 3,000 daily record high temperatures across the country were broken or tied, and 2,000 records were broken or tied in July. Washington, D.C., had an extraordinarily hot summer, breaking a record with 11 straight days of temperatures 95 degrees or higher and three straight days of temperatures in the triple digits.
Colorado wildfires (June-July)
In June and July, high temperatures, extremely low humidity and dry thunderstorms in Colorado contributed to the most destructive fire and one of the most devastating disasters in the state’s history. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes as thick black smoke polluted the air and wild flames exploded in an “apocalyptic” path of destruction. In two months, almost $450 million of damage was estimated by insurers, and all that remained on hundreds of miles of Colorado land was ash.
The “Frankenstorm” – Hurricane Sandy (October)
An unprecedented hybrid storm (appropriately branded the “Frankenstorm”) is on track to have devastating impacts on the U.S. East Coast during Halloween week. As Hurricane Sandy tore through the Bahamas as a Category 2 storm, it was also on track to merge with a powerful early winter storm system – creating an extremely rare, potentially devastating cyclone in the Northeast. Major coastal flooding, strong winds and torrential rain have the potential to blast the New Jersey coast with upwards of $1 billion in damages. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco warns, “We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.”
Residents and homeowners on the East Coast and especially in New Jersey and New York City have been strongly encouraged to take serious precautions. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for severe weather:
- Board up your windows, reinforce doors and other entryways and repair any potential leaks in the roof.
- Remove loose, overhanging limbs that could come crashing down on your house, and secure outside furniture, tools or any other objects that could cause damage to your home in strong winds.
- It may be too late to purchase a flood policy, but it is still a good idea to go over your home insurance policy again to make sure you’re covered against other severe-weather related perils. If a hurricane watch or warning has been issued, you might not be able to change your existing coverage or add new protections.
Are these bizarre weather patterns the beginning of the end? Is this a doomed chain reaction caused by an apocalyptic planetary alignment? Is it global warming? One thing’s for certain: While 2012 may not really be the last year of Earth, it certainly has been a wild ride.