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Extreme weather takes economic toll on Midwest, damages total $12.5 billion

Kenneth Underwood
Senior Producer

Extreme weather has taken its toll on America’s heartland.

“We're used to hurricanes causing a lot of damage. Not used to this much damage from flooding rains in the heartland. And combined with the tornadoes, it's certainly been a very destructive spring into the summer,” AccuWeather founder and CEO Dr. Joel Myers told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move.

In April, AccuWeather predicted the total damage from storms would top $12.5 billion, now it looks like their prediction is coming true.

“Leading that was the loss of the corn and soybean crop; in the case of corn, a couple of billion dollars compared to what the crop production's ultimately going to be… and probably $5 or $6 billion in soybeans,” said Myers. “The rest of the $12.5 billion is made up of damage to homes and cars and the roads that were washed out, the bridges, the loss to businesses. And so it really has been a terrible spring in many parts of the Midwest.”

Hay rolls damaged by flood waters lie soaked on a farm after a series of storms across the central plains in Alva, Oklahoma, U.S. May 24, 2019. Picture taken May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

Corn (C=F) production has taken a dive this year as wet weather has slowed down planting. In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its estimate for 2019 corn-production to 13.7 billion bushels. That’s the lowest level in four years

A silver lining

There has been one positive from all this wet weather, it’s alleviating the drought.

Across the country there is very little drought left, said Myers, “There's always a silver lining if you look at the longer term because in some parts of the country the aquifers were depleted, were declining, and this has certainly helped.”

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, just over 3% of the continental U.S. is in a condition of drought as of July 2, a huge drop from the nearly 30% at the same time last year.

“When you look at the drought map of the United States a couple years ago and you look at it today, there's been a dramatic change,” he said.

So how much of this is due to climate change?

“There's always been extremes of weather, and there continues to be. The relation to climate change is still being debated, so it's certainly not clear cut, and we have to put it in context,” said Myers. “Weather is changes that occur over a period of years. Climate usually is thought of more than 30 years. In between, there's a transition.”

Myers references California, where the weather is “volatile.” The state had 10 years of drought then two years of excessive rain, he said, adding that over a 12-year period it averaged out to about normal.

“There's more volatility in certain parts of the country. But in the end, if you take a 30-year period, normally those averages are pretty much the same with any past 30-year period,” he said.

Kenneth Underwood is a senior producer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter@TheKennyU.

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