Deadly Weather

            Quick, what weather phenomenon kills the most people annually?  Some of you may get it right off, but I bet a lot of you miss it.  As a matter of fact, I bet almost no one can accurately guess the number three most deadly weather phenomenon.  Well, I’m here to give you the straight dope on the deadly side of weather and weather related events.


            We’ll go with the top nine.  Number one of the list of weather killers is heat!  Heat waves kill approximately 206 people on average each year.  Many of these deaths occur in inner cities.  The vast majority of these deaths are of the elderly and/or ill.  So, when it comes to excessive heat and humidity, pay heed, and definitely check on the elderly.  Slow down, and drink A LOT of water.  Take breaks when working outdoors and get out of the heat as much as possible.


            Number two on our list is flooding.  I think most of us have heard this.  Flooding, whether it is flash floods or gradual and sustained large-scale flooding kills about 127 people per year.  If nothing else, remember to stay out of flooded areas and never try and cross a flooding stream, creek, roadway, or whatever.  It can only take six inches of rushing water to wash a car away.


            Here we go, and I bet this surprises you.  Number three on the list is rip currents, killing about 100 people per year in theUnited States.  Wow, that’s a big number, and more evidence of the danger of playing in the water when rip currents are possible.  If you get caught, of course, try to just ride it out to sea until it subsides or, try and swim parallel to the shore to escape the current.


            Number four is lightning.   On average, 73 people die each year of lightning strikes.  Never be outside (if you can help it) in a thunderstorm.  As a matter of fact, if you can hear thunder, no matter how faint, there’s lightning nearby.  Stay inside until the sound of thunder is gone.  Remember, some lightning strikes carry some 100 million volts of electrical potential.  And not to mention the heat of some strikes that can reach 30,000+ degrees!


            Number five is the tornado, killing on average about 69 people a year.  With some 1,000 or so tornadoes per year in the U.S., that’s doesn’t seem too bad, but remember, most of those are people that haven’t taken proper cover.  We can bring these numbers down with quicker warnings, and people actually doing what they’re supposed to.


            Number six is winter weather.  Winter storms take about 60 lives per year.  This is not including cold.  We’re talking about the ice and snow aspect here.  It can be very dangerous in icy situations and heavy snow, so never try and travel in such if you don’t have to.


            Number seven is just plain wind, whether from severe thunderstorms or non-precipitating wind storms.  High winds kill about 54 people each year.


            Number eight on our list is cold air.  Cold waves kill an average of 28 people per year in this country.  Cold exposure is a serious health threat, and some argue the actual number of deaths is higher due to the possibility of undercounting some homeless folks.  Stay inside in severe cold, and if you must venture out, bundle up.  Temperatures below zero (and don’t forget wind chill) can freeze exposed flesh in under a minute.


            Last on the list of deadly weather events are hurricanes.  This may be another surprise.  But remember, there’s plenty of warning for these storms, plenty of preparation and education, and of course, there are very few to strike the U.S. each year.  That is, unless you live here…just joking.  Our chances of NOT having a hurricane hit are much higher than the chance of getting hit in any particular year.


            Be careful out there.