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(USA TODAY) The fierce winter of 2013-14 so far has caused almost $5 billion in damage to the nation's homes, businesses, infrastructure and agriculture, according to data from Aon Benfield, a global reinsurance firm based in London.

That's about $2 billion above average.

"This has been a rather costly and eventful year for winter weather events in the United States," said Steve Bowen, Aon Benfield meteorologist and senior scientist.

The total does not include travel and transportation losses or other business disruption, however, which are likely to run into the "billions of dollars," Bowen said in an e-mail.

Lost flights alone have already cost airlines, airports and passengers an estimated $5.8 billion, according to a report released earlier this week by masFlight, an analytical group that studies aviation operations.

While the $5 billion damage total is above the recent 10-year average and the highest since 2010-11, it does not rank as one of the costliest on record:

"In modern times, 1993 remains the standard, given the enormity of the 'Storm of the Century' in March of that year, which caused $9 billion in damage alone," Bowen said.

A series of winter storms last month brought heavy snowfall, sleet, freezing rain, ice, gusty winds and bitterly cold Arctic air to the nation. Two of the biggest storms killed at least 34 people and caused an estimated $750 million in damage.

Despite the unusually high damage costs this winter, the toll is small compared with the costs of disasters such as 2012's Hurricane Sandy (with a cost of $65 billion) and that year's Midwest/Plains drought ($35 billion), according to Aon Benfield data.

Final national weather data about how cold and snowy the winter of 2013-14 actually was (meteorologists define winter as the months of December, January and February) will be released by the National Climatic Data Center next Thursday.

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