Winter takes a costly toll

Ike. Katrina. Ivan. Hugo. The names of hurricanes conjure images of devastation and death.

They should. figures the median amount of damage caused by an Atlantic hurricane making landfall in the United States to be $1.8 billion. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service, between 1995 and 2004, hurricanes typically killed 21 people annually.

Yet cold and winter weather during that same period claimed an average of 51 lives each year, according to weather service statistics.

Two dozen named winter storms hit last season, often causing 12-16 deaths. Winter storm Atlas, an early autumn blizzard, killed four people and 15,000-30,000 cattle in the Dakotas. Winter storm Vulcan caused a deadly 50-vehicle pileup on the Ohio Turnpike.

As the commentary on this page reports, cities, villages and states blew their budgets on snow removal. Now, they turn to repairing and repaving roads. Meanwhile, motorists are discovering the damage done by road salt and potholes.

Tornadoes, hurricanes get attention, deservedly so. But if the damage last winter has wrought had hit all at once, it would be a national disaster.