It is the season for misinformation! So let’s get things cleared up. Focused on effective communication, Mike Nelson and thewxsocial would like to share some brief and efficient severe weather facts. For continued in-depth analysis of severe weather communication, visit some of our other blogs on the thewxsocial.com homepage!
For meteorologists, lightning is recognized as the thunderstorm hazard with perhaps a greater probability of death than any other. According to the National Weather Service Storm Data, from 1984 – 2013, the United States averaged 49 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability.
For the comparatively small number of people lightning directly affects compared to hurricanes and tornadoes, we can’t seem to get the deadly numbers down. This is not about low predictability, advancing science or improving technology. This is about risk perception and the simple fact that humans have a tendency to ignore small probabilities.
I am a product of the Crescent City. Most of everything that I love can be tied back to my hometown — spicy food, great music, and hurricanes. Especially hurricanes.
In the springtime, I remember looking up as giant river barges floated down the Mississippi River above my parents’ home. I spent hours high atop the levees that cradled the mighty Mississippi. To a young flat lander, those levees felt like mountains of the swampland. In a city whose average elevation is only one to two feet below sea level, they were; a 20–25 ft mound of dirt was the farthest and highest I’d ever been from the water.
“Turn around don’t drown” isn’t working—at least not to its full potential. Meteorologists and media outlets couldn’t be more clear about the dangers of high or rushing water. Heck, television live trucks posted up in front of submerged cars apparently aren’t even strong enough visual cues to keep people away.