One of the most deadly weather phenomena to hit our region each summer is heat. Many people do not realize how deadly heat can be. In contrast to the visible, destructive, and violent nature of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods, heat is a silent killer. Heat, combined with high humidity, kills by taxing the human body beyond its abilities.
In a normal year, about 175 Americans succumb to the demands of summer heat. In fact, in a 40-year period from 1936-1975 nearly 20,000 people were killed in the United States as a result of heat and solar radiation. In a 1995 heat wave, more than 700 deaths in Chicago, IL were attributed to the heat. And these were the direct casualties. No one know or measure how many more deaths are advanced by heat-wave weather.
Cities pose special hazards when it comes to heat. The stagnant atmosphere traps pollutants in urban areas, which adds to the stresses of hot weather. In addition, concrete, asphalt, and other industrial materials common in cities trap heat during the day and keep the air temperatures warmer at night.
The millions of acres of corn crops in Iowa release additional moisture into the atmosphere during the summer. This increase in humidity raises the apparent temperature felt by the human body, also known as the Heat Index.