It turns out that catastrophic weather events are not the main cause of these weather related deaths. 64% (which is approximately 1260) of the 2000 deaths in each year will happen simply because of the cold. These deaths include people who are homeless and freeze on the streets, those under the influence of alcohol who decide to “lie down for a just a second,” those who already have fragile health and may not have the financial resources for heating, or even those who are out playing winter sports or suffer an accident while enjoying wilderness activities.
But it’s not just the cold that gets people in trouble. 31% of the deaths were caused by heat related conditions such as sunstroke or heat stroke. This is because exposure to extreme temperatures can worsen a person’s existing chronic condition. Those who suffer from heart or respiratory disease are often adversely affected, as are those on psychotropic medicines which can affect the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature.
The report also showed men are more likely to die from weather events like lightning strikes or floods. Maybe that’s something to do with the well-known masculine tendency towards heroism? Or maybe it’s just luck of the draw. With fatal lightening events happening this month in the Rocky Mountains and Venice Beach, it’s clear that lightning can strike anywhere.
Where you live also plays a part in how likely you are to die due to the weather. The most deaths happened in urban city centers and isolated rural areas. This is likely due again to economic restraints stopping people based in these areas from gaining services such as air conditioning, heating or emergency help in blizzards.
When it comes to susceptibility, the study highlighted many variables. Factors involved include income and the region of the country, but also depend on how urbanized your area is. All of which provides justification for what has long been considered the most boring part of the nightly news broadcast — the weather report. With weather related deaths happening more often than most people consider, it might be time to start paying more attention to it so you don’t end up being one of those statistics in the future.
(Photo courtesy of Mr.TinDC)