Weird science: Study’s number of ‘hurricane deaths’ based on hundreds of deaths months later

Weird science: Study’s number of ‘hurricane deaths’ based on hundreds of deaths months later
National Guard patrols a flooded Puerto Rican neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. (Image: Puerto Rico National Guard, Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos)

[Ed. – This is a legitimate criticism. The numbers Jazz cites mean that 80% of the “3,000 deaths” in Puerto Rico attributed to Hurricane Maria occurred between 30 days and five months after the hurricane came through.  That’s 2,400 people who supposedly died because of a hurricane that hit months before. If some justification is offered for finding that Puerto Rico lacked the infrastructure to prevent extra deaths long after a devastating hurricane, that’s a separate concern — one that indicts the infrastructure, which couldn’t have been transformed with a magic wand between January and September 2017, no matter who was president.  For all we know, the measures the Trump administration took actually kept a lid on numbers that would otherwise have been worse.  But as Jazz suggests, there is no precedent for counting hurricane deaths this way to begin with.]

They’re counting deaths which took place five months after the storm had passed.

Pardon my incredulousness over such a serious matter, but when did we start defining hurricane deaths in this fashion? When we think of people dying in a hurricane, we picture those who are washed out to sea, struck by flying debris, trapped under collapsed buildings, drowned in rising storm surge waters or even expiring from exposure while trapped on their roofs awaiting rescue. But at some point the storm is over and the immediate rescue and recovery operations are complete. …

This new study of Maria, as indicated above, was looking at the number of people who probably would have died on average in each month following the storm going out to February fo the following year. Then they looked at the number of actual death certificates they could find (no matter what they died of) and any in excess of the projection were attributed to the storm. Five. Months. Later.

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