Weather Preparedness Part 1: The Top 4 Killers

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By Joel Jefferson •  3 min read

Tornadoes and Hurricanes do incredible damage and usually get a lot of attention in the mainstream media but despite their dramatic appearance, they are not the most lethal weapons in Mother Nature’s arsenal. Know the top 4 weather killers:

This article will identify the most potent weather killers and what you can do to survive them, should you ever find yourself stranded outside or away from adequate shelter.

Top 4

Extreme Cold

It’s not dramatic and very easy to predict. Nonetheless Extreme Cold weather tops our list, killing 680 annually — more deaths than all other extreme weather combined.

In a survival scenario, it can be easy to be caught unprepared by extreme weather. If you have access to basic communications such as a NOAA Weather Radio, listen for Blizzard and Winter Storm Warnings, which are often issued 24 hours in advance of an event.

AM/FM radios are also a great source for local weather forecasts. Always have extra blankets and winter gear in your vehicle, in case you become stranded during winter months.

Extreme Heat

On the other end of the spectrum, but just as deadly, is extreme heat. Heat-stroke, heat exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses account for over 350 deaths annually. Like extreme cold, extreme heat can also be difficult to avoid in a survival scenario, so be vigilant.

Look for shade and avoid unnecessary physical exertion during peak heat hours (noon-5PM). Infants and elderly are especially at risk during extreme heat, and should be monitored closely.  Finally, drinking lots of water (16-32oz per hour) is a must to avoid dehydration.


Slow-rising currents of water may not look threatening, but looks can be deceiving. Flood waters kill 100 people every year in the U.S.

A primary reason why people die in flood waters is because they are swept away and drowned attempting to drive through flood currents. Never attempt to cross flowing water more than 6 inches deep. If the depth is unknown, avoid it altogether.


Known as the “underrated killer”, Lightning ranks #4 on our list with 60-90 deaths and 500 injuries each year – more than tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

There is a lot of confusion regarding when and where lightning can strike. The critical rule is this: if you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to get struck by lightning.

The majority of lightning fatalities occur when people leave their shelter too soon after a storm has passed. Their flawed reasoning is, “it stopped raining, it is safe to be outside”. However, a lightning bolt can travel up to 10 miles away from the storm. To avoid tragedy, you should wait at least 30 minutes after a storm has passed before leaving shelter.

In terms of shelter from lightning, avoid particularly exposed areas like hilltops and tall trees. Lightning bolts will follow the path of least resistance, so the lower to the ground you can be and the further away from tall objects, the better.

Part 2

In the next Weather Preparedness article, we will explore several techniques you can use to detect severe weather without power or technology, increasing your preparation time and chances of survival.

Rory Groves is a weather preparedness expert and developer of Weather Defender the desktop weather software designed to protect families and communities from severe weather.

Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here.