Heat waves lead to most weather-related deaths in the US

As a heatwave sweeps across several states, some people have pointed out how deadly intensifying summer temperatures can be.

With the first day of summer soon approaching, millions of Americans are being warned to stay indoors if possible as a heatwave sweeps across states stretching across parts of the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and east to the Carolinas. On June 13, the National Weather Service Prediction Center said 107.5 million people will be affected by a combination of heat alerts, excessive heat warnings and excessive heat monitors this week.

As the heat intensifies in many parts of the country, the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency tweetedin part, “Heat is the leading weather-related killer.” Others online have done similar claims.

THE QUESTION

Is Heat the Leading Weather-Related Killer in the US?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, heat has historically accounted for most weather-related deaths in the United States

WHAT WE FOUND

The CDC tracks heat-related deaths in the United States and says extreme heat kills about 618 people annually. It defines extreme heat as: “Summer temperatures that are much hotter and/or wetter than average. As some places are hotter than others, this depends on what is considered the average for a given place at that time of year.”

According to a CDC morbidity and mortality report, the number of heat-related deaths was even higher over a 15-year period from 2004 to 2018. During that time, there were an average of 702 heat-related deaths in the United States each year. Heat was identified as the underlying cause of death in 59% of these deaths, and heat was identified as the contributory cause of death in 41% of these deaths.

The CDC says flooding is the second-deadliest weather-related hazard in the US, responsible for about 98 deaths each year. Most of these deaths are due to drowning.

Ready, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) national public campaign, says, “Extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of annual deaths of any weather-related hazard.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) also tracks weather-related deaths, although the agency notes that the CDC is the official government source for weather-related causes of death. Heat has been the leading cause of death among weather-related deaths over the past 30 years, according to NWS data.

Over the past 10 years, according to the NWS, the biggest weather-related killers in the US have been heat, flooding and tornadoes. In 2020, tornadoes led to the most weather-related deaths, NWS data shows.

The CDC expects more extreme heat events in the coming years due to climate change.

“Extreme heat events in the United States are already occurring and are expected to become more frequent, more severe, and longer lasting as our climate changes,” the agency says.

According to the CDC, older adults, young children, those with mental illnesses, and those with chronic illnesses are most at risk of heat-related illness or death. Although less likely, young and healthy people can still be affected.

The federal agency is urging people to look out for warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat exhaustion, such as high body temperature, dizziness and nausea.

To stay cool, people should drink cold drinks, rest, take a cold shower or bath, find a place with air conditioning, and wear light clothing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More from VERIFY: No, a heatwave didn’t melt a windmill in Texas

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Alley Einstein

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