WeatherTalk: What element is weather's biggest killer?

The answer depends on how the statistics are put together.

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FARGO — The U.S. National Hazard Statistics, put out by the National Weather Service, show that over the past three decades, around 70 Americans die every year from tornadoes, about 81 per year die from flooding, but about 130 people per year die from heat waves. This is a statistical problem, meaning the answer depends on how the statistics are put together.

The cause of death for most tornado victims is violent sudden impact, and the cause of death for most flooding victims is drowning. Heat wave victims, however, do to not burn or boil to death. Most heat wave victims are elderly people, and most of these deaths are from heat-related causes such as heat stroke, heart attack and dehydration. Whereas tornado and flooding deaths are hard to avoid, heat wave victims often would have been saved had they had better access to air-conditioning.

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John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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