"2011 Tornado Outbreaks: Comparing Fatality Demographics in the United States"

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Sunday, 4 January 2015
Shadya J. Sanders, Howard Univ., Washington, DC; and T. Adams-Fuller and E. Joseph

The tornado season of 2011 was especially active compared to previous years in the United States. April 26-27th is known as the Super Outbreak of 2011, and ripped through several states, causing the highest fatality rates seen since 1974. The April event is one of the deadliest in the United States in 40 years. Over 350 tornadoes were confirmed to touchdown across several states. Recent advancements in weather prediction and a greater variety of information sharing mediums, the massive fatality numbers is unexpected. Widespread news coverage of the destruction placed new light on tornado preparedness. Within just 30 days a devastating tornado hit Joplin, MO. The public's perceptions of and reactions to forecast warnings issued may be an overlooked factor. Are traditional forecast warnings too contextually limited to convey the differences in severity and confidence in the severity of storms? We must seriously ask ourselves what needs to change with tornado warning dissemination. This investigation will include an analysis of fatality demographics, track intensity ratings throughout the tornado, and community impact in both Tuscaloosa, Al and Joplin, MO. Weather forecasts and local communications between counties and states are analyzed.

Funding for this investigation: NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences at Howard University.