BIG T-STORMS swept sections of the metro area DRENCHING the southern suburbs—evenprompting FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS there in an area which is home to 970,000 area residents. Below is a weather radar animation from the College of DuPage GOES weather satellite site:
Downpours in some areas, hardly no rain in others
At the same time thundery downpours drenched these area, other parts of the Chicago area—in typical warm weather precip fashion—saw FAR LESS RAIN. In the city of Chicago, as an example, O’Hare tallied only 0.07″ while Midwest recorded 0.35″. After 19 consecutive rainless days, even these comparatively modest city amounts were welcome
GRIST is running a series on HEAT and its impact on how and where we live—-but also on how many succumb to it and how those numbers are underreported. Its latest report is entitled “How many people are really dying from heat?” It’s a fascinating series of reports and this latest piece looks at why heat fatalities are underreported.
Periods of extreme heat aren’t just inconvenient or a nuisance—they’re demonstrably deadly.
The National Weather Service reports heat is the most deadly extreme weather event in this country, resulting in hundreds of deaths each year. (https://www.weather.gov/mkx/heatwaves).
The 2003 heat wave across Europe where air conditioning isn’t widely available produced a mind-boggling 50,000 deaths. And more recently, heat is determined to have led to 61,000 deaths in Europe in 2022.
In this country, the “official” heat related death toll in the Phoenix area from this past summer’s relentless heat–including weeks of daily temps over 110-deg—has been listed as 180. But GRIST reporter Zoya Tierstein notes that if her reporting on heat death counts there over the years is any indication, the “180” figure is likely vastly under-reported–noting that at the end of last summer, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health Department, which issues fatality figures, boosted its initial summer heat-related death count by a factor of 5.
The difficulties in assigning “heat” as a cause of death are many. First and foremost, it’s not common to see “heat” is listed as an official cause of death–AND the deaths in hot weather don’t always occur during episodes of hot weather. Health complications brought on by heat can result in death weeks or even months after the heat’s retreated. Fatalities brought on by heat induced medical complications often appear under the headers “respiratory” or “cardiovascular” complications.
We encountered the issue here in Chicago during the deadly 1995 heat disaster which was found, upon closer examination, to have led to more than 700 lives.
Public officials initially here openly questioned the fact heat was killing the numbers of people being reported. Post disaster studies confirmed the high number of dead was in fact a reality.
Heat isn’t the only weather disaster in which the number of victims are seriously under-reported. The death toll in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria was the subject of huge disagreement and a public outcry. Initial government stats put the death toll from Hurricane Maria at only 68. Residents knew better. The New York Times, in an initial analysis, independently confirmed more than 1,000 deaths. But a more thorough study commissioned by the government in Puerto Rico ended up finding 2,975 had perished.
And a recent study on U.S. hurricane fatalities from 1988 to 2019 has found likely hurricane deaths come in at 13 times the official NOAA figure of 1,385. The study puts the number at closer to 18,000.
READ MORE IN THIS “GRIST” ARTICLE ABOUT THE DIFFICULT IN REPORTING HEAT DEATHS: https://grist.org/…/how-many-people-are-really-dying…/