Missouri Summer Weather Safety Day
May 24, 2013
Heat Safety Lightning Safety Flood Safety
The National Weather Service, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the State Emergency Management Agency have joined together to promote Missouri Summer Safety Week.  This campaign coincides with National Lightning Awareness Week.  The following is important safety information that can save people’s lives.  Please help spread the word about lightning and excessive heat safety so everyone can have a safe summer!
Two of the biggest weather hazards that affect the United States typically occur during the summer months: Lightning and Excessive Heat. The following chart illustrates that pretty well. Click here to go to the Lightning Awareness Week website.


United States Average Deaths

The U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics provide statistical information on fatalities, injuries and damages caused by weather related hazards. These statistics are compiled by the Office of Services and the National Climatic Data Center from information contained in Storm Data, a report comprising data from NWS forecast offices in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.


 Average Number of Weather Related Fatalities




Excessive Heat


Many people do not realize how deadly a heat wave can be. In contrast to the visible, destructive, and violent nature of floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes, a heat wave is a "silent killer".

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that for the period 1979 - 2002, excessive heat exposure caused 4780 deaths in the United States. That produces an average of 208 deaths a year from excessive heat. That is more that double the current 30 year average of deaths from flooding (92), the current leader in other weather related deaths. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. In 2001, 300 deaths were caused by excessive heat exposure.

Missouri Heat Related Deaths* 

Year  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999  1998  1997
Deaths  52  47  17  11  10  34  25  25  3  14  24  47  23  92  12  9

Missouri Heat Related Deaths: 1980 - 2012: 1048

Missouri Heat Related Deaths: 1995 - 2012: 508

* Source: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS)
More Hyperthermia statistics for Missouri

What is a Heat Wave?

A heat wave is a period of excessive heat lasting two days or more that leads to illnesses and other stresses on people with prolonged exposure to these conditions. High humidity, which often accompanies heat in Missouri, can make the effects of heat even more harmful. While heat related illness and death can occur due to exposure to intense heat in just one afternoon, heat stress on the body has a cumulative effect. Consequently, persistence of a heat wave increases the threat to public health.

The Urban Heat Problem

Most heat-related deaths occur in cities. Brick and mortar buildings, asphalt streets, and tar roofs absorb daytime heat and slowly release it at night. Consequently, temperatures in urban areas can be warmer than rural areas by several degrees both day and night.  This is commonly called the urban "heat island" effect. In addition to the burden of heat, stagnant conditions often develop during heat waves, with pollutants increasing in concentration near the ground and contributing further to public health problems during heat waves.

Socioeconomic factors also place urban residents under extra risk. Some people in cities do not have air conditioning, while people in high crime areas may be afraid to open their windows or venture out to cooler public buildings.

Who is Most Vulnerable During a Heat Wave?

The elderly population segment is the most vulnerable to the dangers of heat. Of the 522 deaths that occurred in Chicago during the July 12-16, 1995 heat wave, 371 (73 percent) were age 65 or older. The elderly suffer due to the diminished ability to perspire. Since the function of perspiration is to provide evaporation, which in turn provides cooling, the elderly have a reduced capacity to release heat from the body.

In addition to the elderly, infants, young children, and people with chronic health problems (especially pre-existing heart disease) or disabilities are more vulnerable to the effects of heat waves. People who are not acclimated to hot weather, overexert themselves, are obese, or use alcohol or drugs (including drugs such as antipsychotics, tranquilizers, antidepressants, certain types of sleeping pills, and drugs for Parkinson's disease) are at great risk. (Source- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report)


 Heat Index

 Heat Index Chart The Heat Index (Apparent Temperature) can be found by taking the temperature (number on the left) and relative humidity value (number at the top) and matching them on this table. For example, a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 45 percent gives you a heat index of 93 degrees.


NWS Kansas City/Pleasant Hill Excessive Heat Advisory/Warning criteria. Note: Heat Index = HI

Excessive Heat Advisory: The HI is expected to reach 105 degrees F, or the HI will range from 100 to 104 for at least 4 consecutive days.

Excessive Heat Warning: The HI is expected to reach 110 degrees F for 2 consecutive days, or will be around 105 for at least 4 consecutive days.  

An Excessive Heat Watch will be issued if it appears warning criteria may be met in the near future. The 4 consecutive day criteria takes into account the duration of an event which can be just as dangerous as a single very hot day.
Excessive Heat Safety
* Drink plenty of water and natural fruit juices, even if you're not thirsty. Avoid alcoholic beverages and drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and colas.
* Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. If you must go out, use sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Remember that sunburn reduces the skin's ability to provide cooling.
* Avoid going out during the hottest times of the day. Take frequent breaks if working during the heat of the day.
* Using a buddy system between co-workers in high heat-stress jobs can help ensure that signs of heat stress do not go unnoticed.
* Inside during the day, keep shades drawn and blinds closed. Use air conditioning whenever available. Even just two hours per day in air conditioning can significantly reduce the risk of heat-related illness.
* Fans should only be used in a ventilated room. Blow hot air out a window with a fan during the day, and blow in cooler air at night.
* Take cool (not icy cold) baths or showers. Eat frequent, small meals. Avoid high protein foods, which increase metabolic heat. Fruits, vegetables, and salads constitute low protein meals.
* Do not leave children or pets in a closed vehicle with the windows up. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach over 140 degrees within minutes.
* Provide extra water and access to a cool environment for pets.
* Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or media sources to keep up with the latest heat watches, warnings, and advisories.

For more excessive heat safety information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions on the CDC website.






At any given moment, there are 1,800 thunderstorms in progress somewhere on Earth. This amounts to 16 million storms a year! In the United States, there are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes each year. While lightning can be fascinating to watch, it is also extremely dangerous.
Another Underrated Killer
According to statistics kept by the National Weather Service, the 30 year average for lightning fatalities across the country is 61.  Lightning usually claims only one or two victims at a time, and because lightning does not cause mass destruction, such as from a tornado event or a hurricane, lightning generally receives much less attention than the more destructive storm-related events. Due to under reporting, it is estimated that, more realistically, about 100 - 120 deaths per year occur because of lightning. Documented lightning injuries in the United States average 300 per year; however undocumented lightning injuries are likely much higher. 

In Missouri there have been 94 deaths attributed to lightning from 1959 - 2010, an average of 2 deaths per year. This is right behind the average of 4 deaths per year caused by tornadoes.

Year 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997
Deaths 0 3 1 2 1 2 0* 2 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 0


* There were 2 reported injuries from lightning in 2006.

 The above covers reports received by the National Weather Service in
Missouri.  Historically, deaths and injuries from lightning have been very underreported.



Lightning Safety Awareness - An Educational Problem

While many people think they are aware of the dangers of lightning, the vast majority are not. Lightning can strike as much as 10 miles away from the rain area of a thunderstorm; that's about the distance that you are able to hear the thunder from the storm. While virtually all people take some protective actions during the most dangerous part of thunderstorms, many leave themselves vulnerable to being struck by lightning as thunderstorms approach, depart, or are nearby. Although some victims are struck directly by the lightning discharge, many victims are struck as the current moves in and along the ground.

Where are people when lightning incidents occur? This chart gives a breakdown.



 Gender of Victims: 84% Male, 16% Female


Months of Most Incidents:  July 30%, August 22%, June 21%


 Pie Chart Showing where Lightning Deaths Occur


(based on averages for 2001-2010)

Estimated U.S. population as of 2011


Annual Number of Deaths Reported


Number of Injuries Reported



Estimated number of U.S. Deaths


Estimated number of actual Injuries



Odds of being struck by lightning in a given year (reported deaths + injuries)


Odds of being struck by lightning in a given year (estimated total deaths + injuries)


Odds of being struck in your lifetime (Est. 80 years)


Odds you will be affected by someone being struck (Ten people affected for every one struck)



Lightning Safety

* Remember, lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the rain area. Go quickly inside a completely enclosed building before the storm arrives. Do not go to a carport, open garage, covered patio or open window. A hard topped all metal vehicle also provide good protection
* If no shelter is available, do not take shelter under a tree. Avoid being the tallest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, crouch down on the balls of your feet in the open, keeping twice as far away from a tree as it is tall.
* Get out of the water, off the beach, and out of small boats or canoes. Avoid standing in puddles of water even if wearing rubber boots.
* Do not use metal objects such as golf clubs, metal bats, fishing rods, or metal tools.
* Stop tractor work and heavy construction equipment, especially when pulling metal equipment.

* Stay there! The best protection from lightning is a house or other substantial building. However, stay away from windows, doors, and metal pipes.
* Do not use electric appliances during the storm. Turn off sensitive equipment such as televisions, VCR's, and computers.
* Telephone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. Do not make a call unless it is an emergency.



Flood Safety


Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water.   Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive across flooded roads.  

One of the primary flood hazards and causes of flood related deaths is driving into low water crossings. These are valleys or dips in roadways that cross normally dry creek beds. Unfortunately, they are often the first to flood, sometimes with as little as an inch of rapid rainfall.  Every year a few adventurous drivers attempt to cross flooded roads and fail.  Learn more about  Low Water Crossings.

Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, Turn Around Don't DrownTM. You do not know the depth of the water nor the condition of the road under the water.

The biggest factor is bouyancy, or the ability for something to float or rise. For each foot the water rises up the side of the car, the car displaces 1500 lbs. of water. In effect, the automobile weighs 1500 lbs. less for each foot the water rises.  Two feet of water will carry away most automobiles!!!




Visit these other sites for more information on both Heat and Lightning:

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