Central Oregon DailyNew study finds far more hurricane-related deaths among poor and vulnerable

New study finds far more hurricane-related deaths among poor and vulnerable

New study finds far more hurricane-related deaths among poor and vulnerable

Hurricane Outlook

(AP) Hurricanes in the U.S. the last few decades killed thousands more people than meteorologists traditionally calculate and a disproportionate number of those victims are poor, vulnerable and minorities, according to a new epidemiological study.

A team of public health and storm experts calculated that from 1988 to 2019 more than 18,000 people likely died, mostly indirectly, because of hurricanes and lesser tropical cyclones in the continental United States. That鈥檚 13 times more than the聽2005鈥檚 Hurricane Katrina,聽but using deaths before, during and after and comparing them to 30 years of normal death rates for those places at that time of year, Parks and colleagues figured a death count of 1,491.

Parks鈥 team found bigger gaps between official death counts and what they calculated for聽2012鈥檚 Superstorm Sandy, where the hurricane center said 147 people died. Parks put the death toll at 1,193. And the largest gap was for聽2017鈥檚 Irma, where NOAA said 92 people died directly or indirectly in the United States, while Parks counted 1,202.

The National Hurricane Center鈥檚 Brennan said his agency writes official reports on storms that use fatality statistics based on information from government officials, medical examiners and the media within several months of landfall. The center doesn鈥檛 have access to the longer-term statistical studies used to calculate 鈥渋ndirect鈥 deaths, but tries to bring them in when able, such as in the case of 2005鈥檚 Katrina and 2017鈥檚 Maria.

In a separate report for the American Meteorological Society, the National Hurricane Center聽analyzed how people died聽in direct hurricane deaths the last 10 years and compared them to earlier. It found that a much lower percentage of people are being killed by storm surge, but a higher percentage of Americans are dying in freshwater flooding.

From 1963 to 2012, storm surge was responsible for almost half of the hurricane deaths. NOAA has made a concerted effort to improve storm surge forecasts, warning and education of residents on the coast. Since 2013, only 11% of the hurricane deaths were storm-surge related, the hurricane center said.

But freshwater flooding deaths went from 27% of the deaths to 57% of all hurricane deaths, a figure that may be skewed by 2017鈥檚 Hurricane Harvey, when there 65 freshwater flooding deaths. Rip current and surf deaths went from 6% of the hurricane deaths to 15%.

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