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Morbidity & Mortality of Texas Tornado Outbreaks

Authors: Heather Swienton*, Texas State University - San Marcos, Courtney Thompson, Texas A&M University, Department of Geography, Forrest Bowlick, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Geosciences, Daniel Goldberg, Texas A&M University, Department of Geography, Andrew Klein, Texas A&M University, Department of Geography, Jennifer Horney, University of Delaware, Department of Epidemiology, Tracy Hammond, Texas A&M University, Department of Computer Science & Engineering
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Tornado hazards, outbreaks, morbidity and mortality, severity
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: Download

Since 1950, tornadoes have accounted for nearly one-third of disaster-related fatalities in the U.S., the third highest of all types of natural disasters after floods and lightning. Twenty percent of the U.S.’s billion-dollar disaster events since 1980 have been tornadoes. The largest share of fatalities have been in the U.S. State of Texas, which accounts for about 7% of the overall property damage from tornadoes. An increasing proportion of tornadoes now occur during what are known as tornado ‘outbreaks’, which were responsible for almost 80% of tornado-related fatalities in the U.S. between 1972 and 2010. While the relationships between tornado severity, economic damage, and mortality/morbidity are generally well understood, less is known about the relationships when single tornadoes are compared with those that are part of a tornado outbreak. Utilizing Welch t-tests and spatial hot spot analyses, the associations between tornado severity, the number of tornadoes, and the geography of tornado occurrence as related to morbidity and mortality in severe weather events are assessed using a dataset of Texas tornadoes that occurred between 1980-2009. The results indicate that tornado outbreaks, but not tornado severity, have statistically significant (p value = 0.007 (injuries) and 0.008 (fatalities)) impacts on tornado related casualties, accounting for 67% of all fatalities and 72% of all injuries. These findings have potential implications for improving forecasting, warning, and preparedness for tornado outbreak events, which could be critical to reducing deaths and injuries from tornadoes through improvements in hazard mitigation strategies.

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