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August 4, 2010 / Dave Gorham

#1 Weather-Related Killer Is…

What’s your best guess for the #1 weather-related phenomenon responsible for the most deaths? Is it hurricanes, tornadoes, heat, winter weather or floods? According to NOAA, on average in the U.S. more than 1,500 people die each year from excessive heat. With that being said, any one event could dominate any given year such as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina which claimed an estimated 1,800 lives directly or indirectly.


Hurricane Katrina bears down on the Gulf coast August 28, 2005. Image: NOAA

Notice the image below and how it breaks down various weather-related fatalities across a 10-year period. On average, excessive heat kills more people than hurricanes. Heat deaths are usually preventable and extreme caution needs to be taken. Certain individuals are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses such as the elderly, small children, people on certain medications, those with chronic illnesses, overweight individuals and those who abuse alcohol. To find out what some of the symptoms are for heat strokes and how you can prevent them, check out YourWeatherBlog.

Excessive heat kills more people on average than any other weather-related phenomenon. Image: NOAA

Take a look at the image below. Notice the highlighted areas in purple across the Southern Plains, MS River Valley and Southeast. The NWS has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for these areas today. You may be asking yourself, what does that mean? Here’s a list of different heat-related products that are issued when conditions warrant.

Areas shaded in purple fall within the Excessive Heat Warning that is currently in effect across this region. The orange highlighted areas indicate that a Heat Advisory has been issued. Image: National Weather Service

Excessive Heat Warning/Advisory: A warning is issued when an excessive heat event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence in the next 36 hours. It’s issued when conditions pose a threat to life or property. An advisory is issued for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could lead to a threat to life and/or property.

Excessive Heat Watch: Issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 12-48 hours. A watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased, but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain.

Temperatures across portions of the Southern Plains, Mississippi River Valley and Southeast will reach the upper 90’s to low 100’s today. When you factor in the humidity, heat index values across most of these regions will be between 105-110F. Heat index values across some areas could reach up to 115F.

Areas highlighted in orange indicate the excessive heat expected over the Southern Plains, MS River Valley and Southeast today. Isolated severe storms (red) will also be possible across portions of the Southeast. Image: ImpactWeather

Unfortunately, two suspected heat-related deaths have occurred in Kansas City, Missouri and are currently being investigated by the Jackson County Medical Examiner. An Excessive Heat Warning is in effect until 8pm Wednesday night for the Greater Kansas City Metro area. Temperatures are expected to top out near 100F today with heat index values around 110F.

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One Comment

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  1. Dave Gorham / Aug 4 2010 2:07 PM

    Is it fair, too, to say that those within the lower income brackets and the homeless are also more at risk for heat-related death? Many are without AC and many are unable to pay their summer electric bills.

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