Advances in science are not the answer here. Real infrastructure to teach people how to react to a tornado and to communicate the danger are the answer.
Engineers know how to build shelters that provide extensive protection from tornadoes, and weather forecasting advances make it easier than ever for experts to predict, spot and track twisters.
Yet 2011 is on pace to be one of the deadliest tornado seasons in history. Why?
In the average year, 62 Americans are killed by twisters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. So far this year, more than 480 have died — and the tornado season, which runs from April through July, is only half over.
Experts say a number of factors are contributing to the extraordinary death toll, including that some people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
AND they aren’t taught what to do. While I’ve been in Mississippi on training, there have been a couple of severe weather threats. The local authorities told us that in the event of a tornado, the best thing we could do would be to stay in a vehicle if we couldn’t get to a shelter. That’s WRONG! Don’t worry, we Okies corrected him. But really, should we have had to?
“When a killer wind directly hits a population, people are likely going to die,” said Brian Ancell, a researcher with the atmospheric science group at Texas Tech University.
This guy should know better, but Texas’ preparedness falls far short of the Oklahoma standard, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that he thinks this is true.
Nineteen states are in what officials term “Wind Zone IV,” an area that has experienced the most consistent and strongest tornado activity. Among the 19 are several with large populations including Texas, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan.
People who live in these states have put themselves in harm’s way because there is a rare but real possibility of wind storms of incredible destructive power, so-called EF4 and EF5 tornadoes on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
“When you have a tornado that hits the heart of a city … it’s almost next to impossible to not have as many fatalities as we had,” said Yasamie August, spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.
And that’s just garbage. Granted, an EF4 or EF5 will do what it wants. The best technology is unlikely to save someone from a direct hit. The goal, therefore is not to be in the path of the tornado.
That only happens when people are taught to react appropriately. And that requires early warning. Doesn’t matter how good the weather guys are at predicing and tracking the things, if Joe Public doesn’t know about it, he can’t, and won’t, do anything about it.
Communities must have sirens, they mut be audible from every point in their area, and from indoors. They must also be tested on a regular schedule. Many communites have no emergency warning,a nd even those that do, haven’t tried them out since the last time they were needed. The sirens on Camp Shelby are a joke—completely inaudible indoors and only slightly better outdoors.