METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
Storms deaths are the most unfortunate aspect of weather. The following list gives storm
deaths and the most likely way they occur:
Flooding: Flooding can be very difficult to survive. Even good swimmers can drown when turbulent
flood waters occur. Many deaths occur from a sudden rush of water in which there is very
little time to react. Sudden rushes of water can occur during a flash flood and during the
storm surge of a hurricane. Often people are trapped inside a structure or their car and this
makes it more difficult to escape.
Lightning: A direct strike by lightning means almost certain death. The heat and electrical
properties are too much for the body to take during a direct strike. With lightning there
is almost no time to react. The common scenario for a lightning death is a person being
outside with a thunderstorm overhead or near the area.
Hurricane: Most of the deaths are from flooding either by the storm surge or inland
flash flooding. Some additional deaths occur to wind blown objects, electrocution and overturning
of sea vessels.
Heat wave: Many deaths occur in large cities that are not adapted to hot temperatures. The stress
of hot temperatures day after day puts enormous stress on those that can not handle the
hot temperatures. Often other ailments and old age will combine with the heat stress to
produce deaths. Many deaths occur from people who live alone without air conditioning.
Tornado: Flying debris is the major cause of death. Depending on the situation there may be
several minutes of warning the tornado is on the way but in some situations the person
is totally unprepared. Those in cars or mobile homes are in extreme danger during a
Severe thunderstorms and
derechos: Many of these overlap with flooding, lightning, and tornado deaths. Wind
blown structures and debris in
severe storms and derechos cause many deaths. Campers,
boaters, drivers and those involved in outdoor activities are at risk. Stay away from trees
or weak structures during high wind.
Cold air outbreak: The major cause of death is exposure to the elements. Stranded or away from shelter
is a dangerous place to be during severe cold air outbreaks. Dangers to people will also occur
when the electricity goes out and some residents have no way of heating. It is especially dangerous
when the cold air outbreak combines with a winter ice or snow storm.
Weather car crash or accident: The weather car crash is a common source of deaths. Dangerous weather to drive in
includes winter precipitation, rain,
dense fog, high wind,
severe thunderstorm, hurricane, restrictions
to visibility and driving through water. A flash flood can sweep a car off the road even with water
that does not look deep. Falling trees produce many accidents. Restrictions to visibility
increase the lag time to which the brakes
are applied. Ice and water on the ground can cause the vehicle to go off the road and increases
the distance it takes from the vehicle to stop when the brakes are applied.
The safest place to be during any type of severe weather is at a home that is not in a flood plain.
This significantly reduces the dangers from the two most common weather killers which are
lightning and flooding. The home would ideally be build to be
able to withstand a minimal hurricane or winds from a severe
thunderstorm. If the home can not withstand these dangers then flying debris becomes
a major hazard. If a hurricane is approaching it is best to evacuate. If it is a severe
thunderstorm or tornado approaching it is best to get in the center of the home on the
lowest floor and as far down as possible. Have your home assessed for the safest place
to take refuge during a severe thunderstorm or tornado. To avoid the dangers of a heat
wave or a cold air outbreak make sure there is a backup supply of fuel that can
warm or cool the home. Make sure this backup supply can safely be used. Deaths have occurred
from improper ventilation when backup power was used.
A common case of a storm death is someone on the road or outside during a thunderstorm
or severe weather. Thousands of deaths occur to people each year in cars due to weather. It
is not a good idea to go on trips or drive during rain or severe weather. The same goes for
any restriction to visibility. It is not a good idea to drive in fog, heavy rain, winter
precipitation and when it is very windy.