S47 A Comparison of the Societal Impacts and Warning Operations for the 1989 and 2010 Huntsville, Alabama Tornadoes

Sunday, 23 January 2011
Angelica M. Betancourt-Negron, NOAA/NWS and University of Puerto Rico, Huntsville, AL; and K. N. Scotten, J. M. Coyne, and J. L. Lee

The city of Huntsville, Alabama lies within a region of the United States known as the Tennessee Valley, which is not traditionally associated with “Tornado Alley”. However, latest research indicates that most tornado fatalities occur in the lower Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi River Valleys.  Huntsville has had its share of tornadic events, including the two tornadoes in this study. On 15 November 1989, a large F4 tornado tracked through south Huntsville with little to no advance warning at the start of the evening rush hour. There were a total of 21 fatalities and 463 injuries.  On 21 January 2010, an EF2 tornado moved through downtown Huntsville during peak evening rush hour, but this time there were no fatalities and only three injuries. The choices made by both the National Weather Service and core partners of the agency during these two tornadic events will be discussed, as well as how these choices either mitigated or amplified the environmental effects registered by the general populous of Huntsville.  While the decision support services such as warning decisions and communications provided by NWS Huntsville are important, the resulting action taken by the public is just as crucial; an investigation into the societal impacts pertaining to these two tornadoes will be shared.  Future NWS Huntsville decision support services and choices will be shaped by the present research in an effort to mitigate the impacts of another tornado striking Huntsville.

This research has been developed as part of a summer internship in the National Weather Service office in Huntsville Alabama. As part of an scholarship program, NOAA Educational Partnership Program.

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