Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hot Hot Heat

The Yahoo! homepage has a story about the most dangerous places to live in the country when it comes to natural disasters. Here's the map they show:

I have had more than a few conversations about the dangers of living in California. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and the probability that the state will slide into the Pacific are very real dangers, people say.

But I would like to bring everyone's attention to the shade of California on that map. Light Grey.

See! California is totally safe. The reason?

"According to our results, the answer is heat," Susan Cutter and Kevin Borden of the University of South Carolina wrote in their report, which gathered data from 1970 to 2004.

"I think what most people would think, if you say what is the major cause of death and destruction, they would say hurricanes and earthquakes and flooding," Cutter said in a telephone interview. "They wouldn't say heat."

"What is noteworthy here is that over time, highly destructive, highly publicized, often-catastrophic singular events such as hurricanes and earthquakes are responsible for relatively few deaths when compared to the more frequent, less catastrophic such as heat waves and severe weather," they wrote.

The most dangerous places to live are much of the South, because of the heat risk, the hurricane coasts and the Great Plains states with their severe weather, Cutter said.

The south central United States is also a dangerous area, with floods and tornadoes.

California is relatively safe, they found.

"It illustrates the impact of better building codes in seismically prone areas because the fatalities in earthquakes have gone down from 1900 because things don't collapse on people any more," Cutter said.

"It shows that simple improvements in building codes in high-wind environments like hurricane coasts, and the effectiveness of evacuation in advance of hurricanes, has reduced the mortality from hurricanes and tropical storms," she added.

And for all of my friends and family living in the dark, dark grey state of Colorado: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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