The wintry weather also created a conundrum for the northern town of Nome. A massive storm swept their final winter fuel shipment out to sea, requiring a Coast Guard icebreaker to guidea Russian fuel tanker into shore to deliver enough fuel for the frigid months ahead.
The storm downed power lines and toppled trees from Illinois to Washington, D.C. Damage surveys uncovered wind speeds of 100 mph (160 kph) in Zanesville, Ohio, and Preston County, W. Va. equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane.
With extreme heat comes drought, and in July, just under 56 percent of the country was experiencing drought conditions, a record. In August, 39 percent of the nation suffered from severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, with two-thirds of the contiguous states experiencing some level of drought. The 2012 drought was the worst observed since the U.S. Drought Monitor began operating in 2000.
The 2012 wildfire season is on track to come in second to the U.S. record for the largest area burned, with 9.15 million acres charred as of November, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The record was set in 2006, when more than 9.5 million acres (35,600 square kilometers) were torched.
2012 also earns notice for the most acres burned per fire: This year saw the fewest fires on record, 55,505 through November, but they were larger in size, according to the Fire Center.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the United States about 8 p.m. EDT Oct. 29, striking near Atlantic City, N.J., with winds of 80 mph (129 kph). A full moon made high tides 20 percent higher than normal and amplified Sandy's storm surge. Streets were flooded, trees and power lines knocked down and the city's famed boardwalk was ripped apart.
Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the United States, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.