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Nature's Fury Makes South Most Dangerous Area in U.S.
Date:12/17/2008

But new 'death map' shows that no region is truly safe from extreme heat, weather

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Americans worried about being caught up in a killer heat wave or deadly natural disaster might do well to avoid the South and the Great Plains states, according to a new U.S. "death map."

The map, devised by University of South Carolina researchers, finds that most deaths from environmental hazards are not the result of dramatic events such as hurricanes or earthquakes

"It's the everyday hazards, such as severe weather -- both in the winter and the summer -- and heat that account for the majority of natural hazard fatalities; it's not the big wham-o event like an earthquake or a Katrina that contribute to the long-term pattern," said lead researcher Susan Cutter, director of the university's Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute.

In that sense, "no place is safe," she noted. "There is no place with few fatalities. Every place has threats -- it's just that the threats are different," Cutter said.

Still, some areas may be a tad more hazardous than others. "For example, you are more likely in some areas in the Great Plains and the mountain states to die from a natural hazard than you would be in the Northeast," Cutter said.

In the southeast, severe weather such as hurricanes remains the main cause of deaths caused by natural hazards. The U.S. west coast also experiences severe weather, and it is also more prone to earthquakes that result in deaths, Cutter added.

The report was published in the Dec. 16 edition of the online journal International Journal of Health Geographics.

For the study, Cutter and her colleague Kevin Borden matched death and weather data from the 1970s straight through to 2004 to create the map.

According to the data, just under 20,000 Americans died from natural hazards during the more than three decades studied.
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