How Likely Are You to Die in a Hurricane?

Hurricanes are no joke. We’re still reeling over the death toll from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico. Plus, other hurricanes have made a name for themselves based on their high death tolls and catastrophic damage (Katrina and Sandy, to name a few). But how likely are you to actually die in a hurricane? If you choose to evacuate, you’ll be safe. But for the brave few who ride out the storm, there are some serious dangers lurking.

Battered Palace Casino in Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina

Major flooding occurred during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In total, 1,833 people died. | Barry Williams/Getty Images

The storm and your location play a major role in your safety

Understandably, the strength of the storm has a lot to do with how safe you’ll be. Hurricanes are given categories based on their wind speed, which is a direct result of the storm’s intensity. A category 1 hurricane has winds of at least 74 miles per hour. A category 5 hurricane has winds of at least 157 miles per hour. The lower the category, the lower the hurricane’s intensity. If you stick it out for a category 1 hurricane, you’ll likely be safer than getting caught in a category 5.

Your location also plays a major role. If you’re in a flood zone, you have a high risk of seeing detrimental flooding, which can be potentially deadly. If you’re up in the mountains or on high ground, you may not see as much flood damage. Flooding is the leading cause of hurricane deaths.

Catastrophic flooding is what often results in deaths

Weather specialists studied hurricane deaths over the course of 30 years and found that flooding was responsible for more deaths than anything else caused by hurricanes. Storm surges, wind speeds, and tornadoes all presented danger, but flooding was responsible for nearly 60% of deaths — an overwhelming majority.

Shockingly, 78% percent of children who died in storms were killed by flooding. Prior to the study, experts thought storm surge (when the sea rises due to pressure change) was the cause of most deaths.

If you choose to stay and need to call 911, there may not be anyone to help

In the event of a wide-scale disaster, 911 is often hard to get in contact with. When Hurricane Florence was threatening the Carolinas, government officials noted that if people chose to stay put, they might not be able to find help in the event of an emergency. Reports noted that during Hurricane Harvey, people were waiting up to a few hours to speak with a 911 dispatcher.

There is an app that has been created to try and help those in need, but nothing is guaranteed.

Your odds of dying are pretty low — but you’re better off evacuating

Choosing to ride out a hurricane is a dangerous move. Yes, the people on The Weather Channel might make it look cool, but they also note how incredibly dangerous it is to be “storm chasing” during such a serious event.

The actual odds of dying in a hurricane in your lifetime are 1 in 62,288, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Yes, that seems low, but it’s also because most of the country doesn’t live in a major hurricane zone. When you choose to stick it out during a storm, those odds will greatly increase, especially depending on the storm’s strength and your location. It’s always safer not to chance it.

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