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Tornado Deaths Tragic, but Not Unprecedented

More media hype: this is not remotely the most deaths we've seen in a season, and the total reported number of tornadoes will drop as we figure out which reports were of the same twisters.

by
Art Horn

Bio

April 29, 2011 - 8:42 am
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This April, nature has done what it always does in the tornado capital of the world: generate large numbers of deadly tornadoes during spring when La Nina is active. It is nothing new.

Since the mid 1970s the warning system in place to alert people to approaching tornadoes has improved, and with the advent and spread of Doppler Radars across the country in the 1990s, meteorologists are now able to see inside thunderstorms and to detect rotating circulations that can become tornadoes. This has resulted in saved lives. Since 1975 an average of about 75 people a year are killed by tornadoes, a greatly reduced total.

But even with better technology, this month was an example of how nature can overwhelm even the best warning systems. Look at what just happened in Japan, the most-prepared nation in the world for earthquakes and tsunamis.

Keep in mind that the number of total tornadoes reported will likely go down. These initial figures are of all tornado reports; many people report the same tornado. Eventually the National Weather Service will evaluate the reports and the initial reports of record numbers of tornadoes may change.

The good news: we have seen the peak of this tornado outbreak. The bad news: May is typically the peak month for tornadoes — we are not out of the woods yet.

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Art Horn spent 25 years working in television as a meteorologist. He now is an independent meteorologist and speaker who lives in Connecticut. He can be contacted at skychaserman@cox.net.
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