Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fear The Heat

In June, I wrote a blog entry about whether severe weather should be a deal breaker in choosing a geographical mate. I was in Arkansas at the time, and hail storms were the big story.

Seeing hail damage everywhere, I wondered if I could handle living in a place with baseball-sized hail. Then I wondered if every place you go simply has its own mix of natural disasters. California, after all, is known for earthquakes, wildfires and mudslides. Isn't that just as dangerous?

Well, the question has finally been settled. A new study by the University of South Carolina has compared all natural disasters across the country according to mortality. The surprising top killer? Heat and drought, which cause 19.6% of all deaths from natural hazards. Second was thunderstorms, and third was winter weather. All three are rather mundane when you think about it.

Having just read The Science of Fear, which is all about human fondness for exaggerating low-risk things and ignoring high-risk things, I found it interesting that the exotic hazards we seem to fear most - like tornadoes and earthquakes - are not really the big risks. In fact, as you can see on the study's "Death Map," California, Arizona and Nevada are ranked as one of the safest areas of the country in terms of natural hazard mortality, along with Northern New England.

Where is it deadliest to live, you ask? The upper Midwest, which is affected by flooding, severe weather and winter weather, followed by the South, which is affected by heat, lightning and flooding.

Who'd have thunk?

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