The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came out with an assessment on the April 27th Tornado Outbreak. There were some interesting findings, some of which I'll paste here to give you an idea of the Q & A. There were 122 tornadoes that day which killed 316 people and injured more than 2400. Damage surpasses $4 billion. The 77 page document goes over everything from the set up of the system to best practices in watches and warnings, to societal impacts.
Here were a few questions and answers from the first document I found interesting...
Question: With such good preparation and forecasts, did your team learn why so many people still died?
Answer: Many members of the public our team interviewed said that, when a warning was issued, they looked for confirmation of the threat before taking action. This confirmation may have been from television or radio, from a trusted friend or family member, or in some cases, waiting to visually see the tornado. People also listened for the mention of specific towns or geographic features on which to base their action decision. With the fast speeds at which these storms were moving (typically 50+ mph), looking for secondary confirmation didn’t give folks a lot of time to get to safety.
Even more tragically, there is evidence that some people died while doing what they thought was the right thing. Many people who did not have a storm cellar or basement took shelter in an interior room of their home. However, a lot of the homes that were impacted were of wood-frame construction, and just could not withstand the battering of the strong and violent tornadoes.
Many of the survivors stated that this was a life-changing experience for them. They understand the low-probability but very high-impact nature of tornadoes, and will take protective action despite the small chances of another hit. I think this is important information, and I hope that the National Weather Service is able to gather and use some of these testimonials in our tornado safety program.
Question: What more should people do to ensure they are prepared to protect themselves when a tornado strikes their community?
Answer: On potential severe weather days, keep up with the weather situation. Identify locations of safe shelters wherever you might be: at home, at work, driving to and from. Make sure your kids know the severe weather plan at home and at their school. Have as many sources as possible to receive information, to complete the “threat confirmation” process quickly. And when the threat is confirmed, act quickly!
This reminds me of the blog I did on the results of a town hall meeting in Birmingham, Alabama six months after the outbreak and how they responded to certain developments.
It still scares me about the number of people that need visual proof...
Just as a reminder of why not to look before taking shelter, this is what one town looked like 6 months after an EF-4 tornado.