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A Quick Quiz: Florida Fatalities September 7, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Health & Wellness, Mindfulness, Nature.

IMGP1667aIn Florida, which of these natural phenomenon or predators kills the most people annually?

A.  Thunderstorms
B.  Tornadoes
C.  Sharks
D.  Rip currents
E.  Hurricanes
F.  Alligators
G.  Venomous Snakes

Despite their fierce reputation, fatal shark attacks are rather rare:  Between January 1990 and July 2005, out of 334 reported shark bites in Florida, only 4 were fatal. That’s about 1 in 100 bites that results in death. 

The same is true for venomous snake bitesAn average of five people are killed each year due to venomous snake bites in the USA.  Snakebites: eMedicine provided this breakdown: A 20-year review of data from the National Vital Statistics Systems identified 97 fatalities.  The state of Texas had the most fatalities (17), followed by Florida (14), and Georgia (12).

According to Deadly Rattlesnake Bites, the risk of fatality from rattlers is extremely low:  Rattlesnakes are one of the most feared reptiles slithering the planet, but people have a greater risk of dying from bee stings or a lightning strike.

Same goes for gators ~ the last fatal attack in Florida occurred in 2007.

So, snakes, sharks, and gators are out.

That leaves A, B, D, or E:  Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Rip Currents, or Hurricanes.

220px-Lightning_hits_treeLightning during thunderstorms is the #2 weather killer in the US, second only to floods.  On average, 40-50 people die in the USA each year from lightning strikes (about one per state).

Hurricane related deaths vary from year to year.  The Florida Review & Travel Guide provided the following info:

In February 1998, a tornado hit Kissimmee killing 25 people.  In 2004, four hurricanes (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne) hit the Florida coast, causing 20 deaths and $40 billion in damage.

In 2007, severe thunderstorms, accompanied by three tornadoes, swept across Central Florida north of Orlando, killing 21 people.

According to Wikipedia: Florida Hurricanes (2000-2010)tropical cyclones in Florida were responsible for 69 direct fatalities and at least 82 indirect casualties during the 10 year period.

That’s an average of 15 a year.  Deaths due to Rip Currents in Florida are greater still.

CORRECT ANSWER:  D ~ Rip Currents

According to Florida Sea Grant:  Since 1989, an average of 19 persons have died each year as a result of rip currents in Florida  (National Weather Service East Central Florida Rip Current Program).   Rip currents, on average, result in more deaths in Florida than hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and lightning combined.

Wikipedia ~ Rip Currents (in Public Domain)

To avoid the grip of the rip:

* Swim in designated areas, patrolled by lifeguards.

* Never fight the rip. If you find yourself being pulled out to sea, do not fight the current by trying to swim back to shore.

* Stay calm and go with the flow.

* Keep yourself afloat by treading water or swimming parallel to the beach. In a few minutes, the current will dissipate.

* A rip current is like a fast-moving treadmill.  If caught in a rip current, do not exhaust yourself by attempting to swim straight back to shore.

*  Instead of trying to swim against the flow, swim to either side of the current, as if stepping off the side of a treadmill.

*  Keep swimming parallel to the shore until your are outside of the current.

* If you can’t break out of the current, go with the flow for 50-100 yards until the rip current  dissipates, then swim back to shore at an angle away from the rip current.

Related articles:  National Weather Service: Rip Current Safety * Florida Sea Grant: Rip Currents


1. Naomi - September 7, 2010

Gee, that’s interesting. Dave will be grinning…being a big fan of both sharks and snakes 🙂

nrhatch - September 7, 2010

Given the different species of snakes and sharks in Africa and North America, the safety statistics may vary a bit . . . if bit. ; )

2. Naomi - September 7, 2010

hehe…sharp today, Nance…every day 🙂

nrhatch - September 7, 2010

I try. ; )

3. cindy - September 7, 2010

Very interesting Nancy 😀

4. Posky - September 8, 2010

I feel so foolish because I didn’t even know what Rip Currents were.

They sound thoroughly terrifying.

nrhatch - September 8, 2010

They are incredibly dangerous.

Three people have died on Anna Maria Island just in the last month (!) from Rip Currents.

All were standing (not swimming) in waist deep water when the current ripped them off their feet and dragged them seaward.

5. humm - September 8, 2010

wAITING FOR YOUR WONDERful posts. No posts today?

nrhatch - September 8, 2010

On the way!

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