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Cyclone Excess Death Count Varies by Storm, Social Vulnerability

Majority of excess deaths after hurricane force events and after gale to violent storm force events occurred recently in 2004 to 2019

FRIDAY, Aug. 18, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- In the United States, there has been considerable variation in cyclone-related excess deaths, with Hurricane Katrina the deadliest tropical cyclone, according to a study published in the Aug. 16 issue of Science Advances.

Robbie M. Parks, Ph.D., from Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues estimated short-term all-cause excess deaths by applying an ensemble of 16 Bayesian models to 40.7 million U.S. deaths and a comprehensive record of 179 tropical cyclones over 32 years from 1988 to 2019.

The researchers found that Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the deadliest tropical cyclone, with 1,491 excess deaths (>99 percent posterior probability of excess deaths), including 719 in Orleans Parish, Lousiana. There were 3,112 total post-hurricane force excess deaths and 15,590 post-gale to violent storm force deaths where posterior probabilities of excess deaths were >95 percent; 83.1 and 70.0 percent of post-hurricane force and post-gale to violent storm force excess deaths, respectively, occurred more recently (2004 to 2019). Overall, 6.2 percent of these deaths were in the least socially vulnerable counties.

"Our work highlights how deaths are impacted by tropical cyclones, an understudied exposure in relation to public health, and one which will remain an important threat as the climate changes," Parks said in a statement. "As a public health priority, future research should focus on understanding the biological and structural drivers of cyclone-related mortality, how to minimize the number of excess deaths related to tropical cyclones, and the impacts on the scale from years to decades."

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