S217 Heart Attack Snow

Sunday, 10 January 2016
Hall E ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Nathan A. Halm, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL; and E. T. Dhanens and W. S. Ashley

Winter storms and their hazards can have a number of first-order consequences, including travel disruptions, power outages, economic losses to local economies, and even fatalities due to traffic accidents and hypothermia. While direct impacts from winter storms are typically well documented, indirect effects—such as deaths due to clean-up operations—are difficult to gauge and assess. During and after winter storm events, the physical activity of snow shoveling can lead to overexertion by a participant, resulting in myocardial infarction, or heart attack. Ischemia due to a heart attack can lead to premature death of the victim. These deaths, which are considered “indirect” fatalities by the NOAA/NWS (i.e., caused by a meteorological event that induced conditions that triggered another event resulting in death), are not aberrations; print media frequently report deaths caused by heart attacks while shoveling after winter storms. Despite this relatively frequent weather-related cause of death, limited research has been presented on deaths due to snow shoveling. This investigation is the first to systematically document, evaluate, and report on deaths due to the activity of snow shoveling in the United States. We hypothesize that mortality due to snow shoveling is a leading cause of weather-related mortality, potentially surpassing hazards such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning. This study provides a more thorough assessment of mortality due to shoveling by employing diverse datasets documenting cases from the most recent decade. Armed with this assessment, meteorologists can inform the public of this notable threat in order to reduce the cardiovascular risk of snow shoveling in future winter events.
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