Weather 101 – What is the most dangerous type of weather?


When posed with this question people normally jump right to tornadoes, hurricanes or flooding. All of those are incorrect. The one single type of weather that takes the most lives in a year is heat. Below is a table of the latest year that has had all of the severe weather compiled by the National Weather service. It shows the fatalities from severe weather for the year 2018, the 10-year average, and the 30-year average.

weather fatalities chart, details in text

As you can see heat is the number one killer so the next time you hear on the weather that there is a combination of dangerous heat and humidity, maybe you will give some pause and thought to this serious problem.

Second on the list is flooding. The sad part is that over 70% of fatalities in floods come in vehicles which means that most of these could have been avoided. Remember if you run into a flooded roadway, turn around and don’t drown. Remember 7 out of 10 people thought they would be fine but were wrong. What makes you think you will be correct?

For 2018 the next two highest threats are ones that we have not studied for a long period of rain. Straight wind and rip currents. Many people think that there needs to be a tornado to have a fatal or damaging wind, but that is not the case. Rip currents are also something that can catch people off guard on what seems like a calm day at the beach.

Cold came in fourth for 2019 and is another that catches people off guard. The problem with cold is not only frostbite where your skin tissue freezes, but hypothermia is a major threat. When your body temperature lowers so does your cognitive thinking and that doesn’t have you thinking about getting yourself to a safe location.

Next comes lightning. Lightning is another threat that is not treated with enough respect. People say they are very cautious around lightning, but did you know that if you hear thunder, the threat is as great, if not even greater than, if you saw a lightning bolt close by. All lightning creates thunder and that thunder can travel only 5 to 10 miles from the lightning. Therefore, if you hear the thunder, you are at risk and need to head inside a house or a car.

Coming in 6th is a tie between tornadoes and winter storms. Isn’t it amazing that people fear tornadoes the most but don’t give any other of the severe weather listed earlier anywhere the same thought. This includes winter storms which can cause a multitude of issues.

Hurricanes came in last place for 2018 as it was a slow year for the United States.

Though keep in mind I used a one year snapshot for the order of the lists. Some major outbreaks of tornadoes and hurricanes have had a few spike years that increases the 10 and 30 year averages by a lot more.

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