When I grew up, lightning was the biggest killer in terms of weather-related deaths. But over time, experts say more and more of our population has moved into natural flood plains or areas at risk for flash flooding.
According to the National Weather Service, migration into flood risk areas has made flash flooding the number one weather-related killer for years. On average, 200 Americans die in flood-related events each year. By contrast, lightning deaths continue to be on the decline. The national average from 1982 to 2011 was 54 lightning-caused deaths each year. The decline in loss of life is attributed to lightning safety education.
A new study by the Federal Highway Administration points out what could be considered weather's biggest killer: Traffic accidents. The study claims that on average 7,000 Americans die each year in weather-related crashes. The study did not break out which type of weather presents the highest risk.
The photo above shows a snow-covered Highway 26 Monday over Government Camp. The high number of fatalities is staggering when compared to other weather-related deaths. Car accidents may never be included by the Weather Service in its official index of weather fatalities, but it seems clear that more education is needed to make drivers aware of the danger on roadways when stormy weather hits.
Annual tornado deaths have been on the rise over the past several years. In 2012, 553 people lost their lives from killer twisters. The average over the past three years is considered to be off-the-charts high at 222 deaths each year. Longtime averages are much lower.
KGW Meteorologist Rod Hill
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