July 31, 2014

It might not kill a lot of people, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't fear a flood.     Photo: welcomia/ThinkStock

Mother Nature's Most Fatal Weather

Death by flood less common than by lightning

Severe lightning storms, such as the one that killed one and injured at least seven on Venice Beach last Sunday, are incredibly rare events. Dying because of one? Even rarer. However, a report on extreme weather–related deaths released Wednesday found that death by flood is even more uncommon.

The data, collected by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers, showed that while lightning strikes killed 182 Americans between 2006 and 2010, flooding was directly responsible for 93 fatalities.

Despite record stateside flooding within the past year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported only 28 flood fatalies in 2013, most of which occured while victims were driving.

CDC researchers analyzed death tolls caused by five kinds of severe weather: heat, cold, storms, floods, and lightning. Overall, 10,649 people died as a result of extreme weather events over the five-year period. The CDC also provides data tables showing the likelihood of death based on gender and race. White males, it appears, are the most likely to die from severe weather across the board. 

Cold-related deaths were the most common. At least 6,660 people, or 63 percent, died as a result of either cold weather or hypothermia—when organ failure sets in as a result of core body temperature dropping below 95 degrees Fahreinheit.

Half as many people—3,340, or 31 percent—died as a result of hot weather or heatstroke, usually a result of both. As the Los Angeles Times notes, heatstroke occurs when you can't lower your body temperature by sweating.

The remaining 6 percent of deaths were traceable to lightning, floods, and catacylsmic storms such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

This data, compiled from death certificates, shows that the likelihood of all severe weather–related deaths increases by large factors with age.

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