Fatalities Associated with Nonconvective High-wind Events in the United States
Ashley, Walker S.
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A database was compiled for the period 1980–2005 to assess the threat to life in the conterminous United States from nonconvective high-wind events. This study reveals the number of fatalities from these wind storms, their cause, and their unique spatial distributions. While tornadoes continue to cause the most wind-related fatalities per year, nonconvective high winds (defined as phenomena such as downslope and gap winds, gradient winds, dust storms, and winds associated with midlatitude cyclones) have the potential to fatally injure more people than thunderstorm or hurricane winds. Nonconvective wind fatalities occur more frequently in vehicles or while boating. Fatalities are most common along the West Coast and Northeast in association with passing extratropical cyclones, with fewer fatalities observed in the central United States despite this region’s susceptibility for high-wind gusts. A combination of physical and social vulnerabilities is suggested as the cause for the unique fatality distribution found. More than 83% of all nonconvective wind fatalities are associated with the passage of extratropical cyclones.