Insights on Insurance

The year 2012 began with an unusual number of tornadoes during January. The first major tornado outbreak occurred on January 22-23, when a spring-like system moved across the southern Mississippi valley, producing at least two dozen confirmed tornadoes across Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. As a whole, January was the third most active on record, behind 1999 and 2008. Despite this, a significant contrast in activity occurred for the month of February. Despite a slow beginning, the month of February ended with a significant tornado outbreak on the 28th and 29th. Another ramp-up in activity occurred in early March, with one of the largest outbreaks ever recorded in the United States for that time of the year. This outbreak produced 160 reported tornadoes, and affected areas across Indiana and Kentucky in particular. Using the adjusted preliminary tornado count (85% of the total preliminary reports in order to remove overcount), 2012 attained record tornado activity on March 23 with 319 reports, eclipsing the previous record of 317.

May 22, of the deadliest tornados in U.S. history struck Joplin, Missouri directly, killing 159 people and injuring over 1,000. The massive EF-5 tornado, with winds over 200 mph, violently hit the city of more than 50,000. Despite the tornado warnings why were there so many deaths? A National Weather Service study on the Joplin tornado reveals important lessons learned:

  • A majority of residents did not immediately seek shelter when tornado warnings were issued.
  • People needed between two and nine risk signals to take action and seek shelter. For example, if they heard the sirens going off they would look in the sky, then go to a TV to get information and then call a friend, etc.
  • The time it took between the warning and the search for confirmation of risk cost many people their lives.

What can you do?

  • Listen: When severe weather is possible (Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch issued) pick a credible source of information and keep in touch with that source until the danger has past. One of the best tools is a NOAA Weather Radio (also know as an Emergency Weather Radio).
  • Act: When you hear a tornado warning (tornado seen by spotters or detected on radar) seek the best shelter you can find immediately. Don’t waste time checking multiple sources of information. You may have only seconds to find a safe place.
  • Live: Your chances of survival multiply. Hopefully the storm will pass with no damage. But don’t risk your life on a hope.

David Carlson

Past-Chairman, Euclid Chamber of Commerce; President, Euclid Public Library Board; President, Euclid Rotary Club; owner, Nationwide Insurance Agency

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Volume 3, Issue 4, Posted 10:39 AM, 05.04.2012