9.3 Tornado Vulnerability Across the Central United States

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 4:30 PM
Room 333-334 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Holly M. Widen, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Understanding tornado vulnerability is essential in making efforts to decrease the threat to life and property in communities across the country. Advancements in technology have not only improved tornado forecasts and warnings, but also the collection of tornado damage survey data. The National Weather Service (NWS) Damage Assessment Toolkit contains the most extensive GIS-based damage survey data available to the public but has yet to be utilized as a means to assess tornado vulnerability. This research examines both the physical and social factors (e.g., tornado kinetic energy, population density, housing structure, age, etc.) that contribute to the assessment of tornado vulnerability over the central United States. In addition, estimates of tornado kinetic energy are calculated and used as a physical metric of intensity in the assessment, improving upon previous studies that infer intensity from categorical damage ratings based on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. Spatial statistical analyses are conducted to examine relationships among the physical and social factors. The results highlight specific areas of high physical risk and social vulnerability in past events as well as significant contributing factors. The majority of these areas are located in the Southeast, where there are more energetic tornadoes and greater exposure of people and structures. These findings are relevant to forecasters and climatologists for prediction purposes as well as insurance and disaster management agencies for preparedness and mitigation.
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