It’s amazing how few people Harvey has killed

Perhaps a slightly ghoulish way to think of it but the death toll appears to be 10 people at present. 10 too many of course, a tragedy each and every one.

And yet, and yet. Firstly, imagine a storm this bad in an economically undeveloped country. We wouldn’t be just creeping up into double digits.

But also, US death rate is some 800 per 100,000 people each year. There’re 2 million in Houston (the city, not the surrounding area). We therefore expect some 45 deaths a day in normal times. That toll of 10 is over several days. We’re in fact seeing a 10% rise in the death rate as a result of a vast and huge storm.

Yes, 10 deaths too many. And yet it’s an amazingly small, tiny, number. It being economic development that makes it such.

21 comments on “It’s amazing how few people Harvey has killed

  1. To continue on the ghoulish line. How many of those 45 deaths a day would be down to other than natural causes, e.g. road traffic accidents, work-related accidental deaths or deaths from criminal activity? It might be possible to ague that Tropical Storm Harvey (NOAA designation) has actually saved lives overall! (I have fb friends in the middle of this who are sitting on an island in the deluge.)

  2. JuliaM,

    Plenty of areas did the same thing around Katrina, like Florida and Mississippi. The MSM just chose to ignore them in favour of covering the combined natural/man-made disaster of New Orleans and labelling George W Bush a racist.

  3. “But also, US death rate is some 800 per 100,000 people each year.”
    Either the average life expectancy is 125 years, or there are an awful lot of young folk immigrating or old folk emigrating.

  4. Plenty of areas did the same thing around Katrina, like Florida and Mississippi.

    Yup. Friend of mine lives in Pensacola, he gets battered by hurricanes but everyone mucks in. I believe his job is to stand at one end of the neighbourhood with a large firearm deterring looters.

  5. Am I the only one who perceives the Guardian as positively salivating at the prospect of Harvey killing thousands?

    It’s using words like ‘catastrophe’, and all I can see is a very reasonable response to a very bad storm. Hell, there even seems to be very good corporation between people and local/fed agencies, who are not being as heavy handed as I’ve heard about in past US disasters.

  6. @NDReader
    “Either the average life expectancy is 125 years, or there are an awful lot of young folk immigrating….”

    UK’s is 940/100,000.(Ever helpful CIA World Factbook) So headed in the same direction. And likely, even further along. What with illegals in lower age groups & other immigrants missing from the figures.

    “…or old folk emigrating”
    That’s something you see in London’s Cypriot community. Even Cyps born there like to make their pile in the UK, then live out their final years in Cyprus. And there’s people like me. Any dying I intend doing won’t be done in the rain & cold at the slender mercy of the NHS..And anyway. It’s always been my ambition to die of gunshot wounds in the bed of some other bloke’s wife. I need a country with decent firearms laws.

  7. “Firstly, imagine a storm this bad in an economically undeveloped country. We wouldn’t be just creeping up into double digits.”

    You mean a 3rd World corrupt, hell-hole like…err.. New Orleans ?

    Idiots on Today this morning citing Harvey as proof of global warming and what a fool Trump is for pulling out of Paris Accord. Would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

  8. But Harvey may be a Fake news category 4.

    “As reported by satellites, Harvey peaked at a sustained speed of 115kt, or 132mph, just before landfall.

    However, this appears to be at odds with the land based data, where the highest PEAK GUST was 132 mph. Wind gusts are typically about 1.3 times as high as 1-minute sustained speeds, according to NOAA, which suggests that Harvey’s sustained speeds at landfall were about 100 mph, making it a Cat-2 hurricane.

    Note that hurricanes like Carla and Celia were much more powerful at landfall. Once more, this raises questions about the current practice of comparing satellite data with historical land data. This often results in claims that storms these days are more powerful than in the past”

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/storm-harvey-update/

  9. Quite so.

    My favorite example of this are the ’88 Armenian quake and the ’94 Northridge quake. They are quite similar: they occurred within a few years of each other; they both hit densly populated areas; their strength was almost the same (6.7 vs. 6.8 on the Richter scale).

    One difference: the Northridge quake killed 57; the Armenian quake 25,000 to 50,000.

    Never, ever forget: It’s good for a society to be rich.

  10. Even if you’re slightly rich the difference is amazing. We had a 7.6 here five years ago: 2 killed (one from a heart attack). Bam had a 6.6 in 2003 and 30,000 died. Moral of the story: building houses out of reinforced concrete rather than cowshit is a smart move if you live in an earthquake zone.

  11. “Moral of the story: building houses out of reinforced concrete rather than cowshit is a smart move if you live in an earthquake zone.”

    I’d rather have cowshit fall on my head than reinforced concrete.

    Jokes aside, most American houses are built of what feels like plywood specifically to meet earthquake resistance standards.

  12. Civil Engineering Professor: “It’s better to be in a wood-framed house than a masonry house if there’s an earthquake.”

    Student: “Because the wood house is stronger?”

    Prof:”No, it’s easier to dig you out of the rubble.”

  13. most American houses are built of what feels like plywood specifically to meet earthquake resistance standards

    When the Mythbusters crew accidentally shot a cannonball through a Californian dwelling, they demonstrated it was constructed from chicken wire and papier mâché.

  14. Several issues, one the time of day of a quake makes a lot of difference to death tolls in many (but not all) quakes; and even more so in places where the houses are prone to collapsing.

    Wooden houses don’t just make it easier to dig one out so to speak, they flex and very rarely collapse catastrophically though they can certainly be heavily damaged. A major cause of fatalities in such houses is the collapse of unsecured masonry chimneys.

    In NZ’s recent earthquakes, virtually all fatalities occurred in modern multi-storey ill-specified (or not built to spec) buildings that did collapse and from old (1900-1930’s say) commercial building facades with elaborate copings that were not earthquake strengthened and not required to be so because of age (and historical preservation rules). Others were from chimney collapses, very, very, few (if any) from collapsed wooden houses. In the latest one, there were two fatalities, one I think medically related and the other from the collapse of a chimney and related parts of a historic rammed earth two storey homestead.

    Bottom line, modern (though maybe not too “modern”) wooden framed houses without free standing masonry chimneys are remarkably safe in even major damaging earthquakes.

  15. Pingback: Harvey – wmconnolley: scienceblogs.com/stoat archive

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