Unusually Devastating Tornadoes

Authors: Tyler Fricker*, Florida State University
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Climatology and Meteorology, Physical Geography
Keywords: Tornado, Casualties, Vulnerability
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Stones Throw 2 - Slate, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Tornadoes are wind storms capable of producing catastrophic damage and mass casualties. Wind energy and population density explain a large portion of tornado casualty rates, but socioeconomic and demographic factors also play a role. Identifying some of the factors related to tornado casualty rates is critical for understanding human vulnerability to these potentially destructive events. Yet, there remains a gap in our knowledge around why some communities are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes. In response, here I define and identify unusually devastating tornadoes through the help of a statistical model for predicting per-tornado casualty rates. Then, using a case-study approach, I investigate why two tornadoes that hit the city of Camilla, Georgia in the early 2000s might have been unusually devastating. I find that unusually devastating tornadoes can occur anywhere in the United States, but that the most unusually devastating tornadoes tend to occur in the Southeast. Reasons for this may be related to community structure (e.g. communication systems, warning sirens, etc.) and community resources (governmental spending, etc.), but it is likely that contributing factors of tornado casualties are different for individual communities.

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