Is There Another Side to the "Hurricane Death Toll"?
Miguel Sancho, a senior producer with ABC’s 20/20, writes in with a question I’ve often wondered myself but cannot answer. Can you?
A thought – every hurricane season we see headlines ascribing blame for lives lost on a given storm. “Hurricane Irene Blamed for Five Deaths in North Carolina,” etc. Certainly when people drown, are killed by floating debris, or die because they can’t make it to the hospital, the statistic sounds logical. But it occurred to me that perhaps, in the interests of fairness and accuracy, we should also give Hurricanes “credit” for lives not lost thanks to the interruption of normal human activity. How many homicides, vehicular fatalities, or drug overdoses didn’t happen [last] week in New Orleans, for example, because people were otherwise occupied protecting themselves from Hurricane Isaac? Just wondering if anyone has ever studied this, comparing average morbidity rates in hurricane zones to the stats during the times when hurricanes roll through.
This is not to suggest that overall, hurricanes are a social good. Bastiat’s broken-windows fallacy and all that. But perhaps in this one particular metric, we aren’t seeing the whole picture.
Please don’t judge Sancho’s observation as insensitive to the death and destruction caused by the hurricane itself. I can assure you he is not.