It doesn’t make the breaking news chyron, but cold-weather related deaths top every other form of weather nature has to throw at us annually. Weather kills at least 2,000 people annually, but a new government report shows that more awareness needs to be brought to cold snaps.
Stripping out the multiple polar vortices we had this past winter, cold snaps are not known for their breaking news coverage. Hurricanes and tornado outbreaks are the weather events that get the wall-to-wall coverage.
The CDC decided to look at which types of weather were the biggest killers. Using death certificates over the span of five years, they were able to answer which type of weather is the deadliest. Out of the 10,649 deaths attributed to weather over five years, around 63 percent were tied to cold exposure or hypothermia.
Those cold-related deaths were more likely to impact the homeless, alcoholics, the elderly and people engaging in winter sports.
31 percent of deaths were linked to heat, either heat strokes or sun strokes. The remaining 6 percent were linked to storms, floods or lightning.
Socioeconomic factors also played a role in the deaths. Low-income counties were more likely to see weather-related deaths than more affluent counties. The CDC is theorizing that low-income counties have less access to heating or air conditioning, leading to more heat or cold related deaths.
The breakdown between men and women is striking. More than two-thirds of weather-related death were men or boys. In floods, storms or lightning, men were twice as likely to die than women. People over the age of 65 were also highly susceptible, because of their inability to deal with temperature extremes.
The takeaway from the report? When the heatwaves and cold snaps hit, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly. As for urban areas, cooling and heated centers need to be deployed to give access to climate controlled areas for those lacking it in their own homes.
As for the media, the cold needs to get the same kind of coverage it did this past winter. It may not have the same ratings appeal as a tornado outbreak, but it can be deadlier.