Blog Posts by Year In Review Staff

  • Impressive Animals: #2 Purple squirrel


    A purple squirrel was found in a Pennsylvania backyard, and folks were flummoxed as to how it got its unusual coloring. One theory: It fell into a portable toilet. The couple who caught the squirrel took a photograph that stirred much debate, and then released the squirrel back into the wild. Its whereabouts are unknown, and the local game commission refuses to launch a hunt for it.

  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #10 Heatwave

    Forecasters warned that 2012 would be a year of extremes, and their prognostications prompted a surge of weather-related searches on Yahoo!. Record heat waves across the United States and Europe pushed the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization to conclude that 2012 will be one of the warmest years on record. According to meteorologist Bob Smerbeck, temps in June and July placed 2012 among the three hottest summers in the United States since 1950.

    One result of the oppressive heat was a change in attitude: The University of Texas found that the number of Americans accepting climate change as real shot up to 70 percent, a nearly 20-point jump from only two years ago, when it was snowfall rather than heat waves making records.

  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #9 Drought

    The continued worst drought in a generation is pushing food prices up and leaving scientists to conclude the world may be forced to go vegetarian by 2050. The drought kept U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack busy: The man in charge of America's forestry and fisheries admitted that the drought had him literally down on his knees, praying for rain. "If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it," he said.

  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #8 Hurricane Leslie

    Hurricane Leslie was the 12th of 19 named tropical storms this year, putting 2012 in the top five busiest hurricane seasons since 1851. "This is the third consecutive year with nineteen named storms in the Atlantic, which is a remarkable level of activity for a three-year period," wrote Jeff Masters on WunderBlog. From Sept. 5 to 7 Leslie peaked as a Category 1 hurricane before easing up as a tropical storm. The center of the storm first passed east of Bermuda and struck the islands with heavy rain and 50 mph winds before swinging by Canada. Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula was pounded by similarly high winds with gusts as high as 85 mph in some areas.

  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #7 Blizzard

    Hurricane Sandy came ashore and morphed into a superstorm, combining with cold air and bringing blizzard conditions over parts of West Virginia and some neighboring Appalachian states. The second-costliest storm in U.S. history crippled New York City's subway system and airports, causing some transportation leaders to question whether the nation's infrastructure can weather such extreme events.

    "Each time you replace a bridge, states have to be thinking about not just what kind of traffic demand there is, but how do I make sure this is a bridge that will withstand the future given the erratic weather patterns and climate change we're seeing," Paula Hammond, Washington state's transportation director, told the Associated Press.

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  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #6 Texas Hail

    Texas seems to welcome wild weather, and that held true in 2012, even as it was stuck in miserable drought conditions. A freakish hailstorm created waist-deep mud drifts in the Texas Panhandle. Piles of hail came down and left people trapped in their cars, awaiting help from emergency crews; the storm closed down the southbound end of U.S. 287 for an entire night. The next day snowplows were needed to clear roads.

  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #5 FEMA

    Weather catastrophes cost North America about $1,060 billion from 1980 to 2011. Even in nonelection years, those kinds of dollars get folks debating the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    The timing of Superstorm Sandy a week before the 2012 presidential election raised fundamental questions in the case for and against FEMA: Why so many needy states? Do people fail to take personal responsibility?

    If anything, this top 10 list is a reminder that it's tough to forecast when and where funds will be needed. That's why nonprofit advocate GuideStar's top tip is to be proactive, not reactive.

    "Relief organizations can't wait until donations start coming in to respond to a disaster—they have to get to the scene as quickly as possible," the GuideStar website says. "By giving to a general relief fund, you give the organization the ability to use your donation where and when it is most needed."

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  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #4 Hurricane Isaac

    Not only were the 2012 hurricanes prolific, but they also had political implications. Hurricane Isaac delayed the Republican National Convention, and political pundits say Sandy helped President Barack Obama stay in the White House. Could they be a wake-up call for Washington to get more involved in climate change?

    It wasn't the first time the Republican Convention was halted by a hurricane. This year's delay was the second time the GOP has had to call off its first day in the wake of a storm: In 2008, Hurricane Gustav crashed into Louisiana, interrupting the convention in St. Paul, Minn.

    Hurricane Isaac also happened to come down on Louisiana on the anniversary of 2005's disastrous Hurricane Katrina.

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  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #3 Texas Tornadoes

    Multiple tornadoes descended on the Dallas area one afternoon in April. Amid the drought and heat wave this year, it's hard to complain about the much-needed rain the tornadoes brought to the Lone Star State. Still, no one was happy about the flooded roads and the chaos that followed. In Dallas, one tornado passed through a Schneider National facility, throwing many-ton trucks into the sky, which then dropped screaming back to earth. Dozens of flights headed for Dallas had to be rerouted to avoid the storms, and more than 100 aircraft took a beating from the twisters.

  • Superstorms and Scorchers: #2 Colorado wildfires

    Drought and heat combined to cause some of the most destructive Colorado wildfires in the state's history. The Denver Post reported that the disastrous wildfire era could continue because of overgrown forests. "The threat to Colorado homes in 2013, it now appears, will likely be as high as ever," the paper wrote. This year's wildfires will probably cost more than $450 million, and one undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture said the recovery could take years, if not decades.

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