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Tornado deaths: What the past tells us about the future . Harold Brooks NOAA/NSSL Harold.brooks@noaa.gov. General History of Death. >20000 people have died in US tornadoes (~400 years) Deadliest decade-1920s (95 min, 4 years>200, 3169 total) 1986-1995: 419 deaths 2000-2009: 558 deaths

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Tornado deaths: What the past tells us about the future


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tornado deaths what the past tells us about the future

Tornado deaths: What the past tells us about the future

Harold Brooks

NOAA/NSSL

Harold.brooks@noaa.gov

general history of death
General History of Death
  • >20000 people have died in US tornadoes (~400 years)
  • Deadliest decade-1920s (95 min, 4 years>200, 3169 total)
    • 1986-1995: 419 deaths
    • 2000-2009: 558 deaths
  • Only 3 years since 1974 > 100, max is 130 (1998)
slide3

10 Years of Tornado Fatalities by County

Avg. Fatalities ~2.5

Avg. Injuries ~21

Avg. Prop. Dmg. ~$18M

Avg. Track ~18 miles

Avg. Width ~500 yards

Avg. Rating ~(E)F2.5

631 Total Fatalities

1999-2008

what happened in 1925
What happened in 1925?
  • Seminal weather events that changed society
    • 1888 Blizzard
    • 1900 Galveston Hurricane
    • 1927 Mississippi River flood
    • 1930s Dust Bowl
    • 1925 Tri-State tornado
slide10

Mobile Home

Permanent Home

brooks and doswell 2001
Brooks and Doswell (2001)

Highlight role of education in reducing 3 May 1999 deaths

Question whether downward trend (post-1925) stopped

Model death rate as function of mobile home fraction

model tornado deaths brooks and doswell 2001
Model Tornado Deaths (Brooks and Doswell 2001)

Mobile home contribution to overall death rate

slide16

Mobile Home

Permanent Home

warning response system
Warning/response system
  • Warning
    • Decision
    • Dissemination
    • Reception
  • Response
    • Preparation
    • Options
    • Action
warning performance
Warning performance
  • Lead time?
    • Lead time for warned tornadoes hasn’t changed in 25 years
warning performance1
Warning performance
  • Lead time?
    • Lead time for warned tornadoes hasn’t changed in 25 years
      • POD has increased
    • Sutter and Simmons-decrease in fatalities up to 15 minutes
    • Hoekstra
      • Preferred mean lead time 34 minutes
      • Given 1 hour lead time, respondents less likely to act immediately, more likely to flee
    • Stalker-Long lead-people prepared to take action
  • False alarms?
    • Many convolved factors (SE primarily)
    • What do people think is a warning for them?
what are the issues
What are the issues?
  • Organization of storms (warning challenges)
  • Ashley (2007) summarizes many aspects
    • Mobile homes
    • Nocturnal/visibility
    • Poverty
  • Preparation/response
slide23

Nocturnal Tornado Death Fraction

Mobile Home Fraction by County

Forest Cover

Fraction in Poverty

(Ashley 2007)

compare to lightning
Compare to lightning
  • Which kills more in US?
compare to lightning1
Compare to lightning
  • Which kills more in US?
    • 1976-90: Lightning (m=90), tornado (53), lightning more in 13 years
    • 1996-2010: Lightning (41), tornado (63), lightning more in 3 years
  • Lightning deaths dropped dramatically starting ~1990
    • Education-“30-30 rule”
    • Training-ER docs less likely to kill you now than 25 years ago
final thoughts
Final thoughts
  • Reducing deaths won’t come by improving forecast quality (lead time, POD, FAR)
  • Non-meteorological problem
    • Education/preparation
    • Choices for appropriate action
    • Communication of messages