The Deadliest Weather of 2018 May Surprise You

Chris Dolce
Published: April 23, 2019

Weather contributed to the deaths of hundreds of people in the United States last year, but you might be surprised by the three types of events that caused the largest number of fatalities.

Extreme heat was the deadliest weather in 2018 with 108 lives lost, according to statistics recently released by NOAA. Although heat doesn't grab headlines like hurricanes and tornadoes do, it has on average contributed to the most weather-related deaths annually (136) over the last 30 years.

(MORE: Heat is the Deadliest Weather

Weather-related deaths in the United States in 2018.
(Source: NOAA)

Flooding killed 80 people last year, the second most of any category in NOAA's report. That's near the long-term average of 87 flooding deaths per year, however, it's also the first time since 2014 the toll has been less than 115 for a single year.

About 25 percent of the flooding fatalities in 2018 were from Hurricane Florence (16) and Hurricane Michael (5).

Rip currents may not come to mind as a major weather-related killer, but in the last two years, they have been an underrated danger. They were blamed for 71 deaths and 70 deaths on our nation's coastlines in 2018 and 2017, respectively. That ranks them as the third deadliest weather-related event in the U.S. for both years in NOAA's database.

High winds from thunderstorm and non-thunderstorm events last year claimed 58 lives, the fourth most of any category. Winds can be deadly when they topple trees onto buildings and vehicles.


(Rip current deaths by state or territory 2014-2017.)

The death toll from lightning and tornadoes was far below the long-term average.

Tornadoes killed 10 people in 2018, the fewest on record in that category. Lightning contributed to 20 deaths last year, which is about half the 30-year average of 43.

Weather contributes to many deaths in vehicle accidents each year. Those are not all included in NOAA's statistics.

(MORE: Weather-Related Accidents More Deadly Than Tornadoes


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