6 March 2007

The Growing Tornado Problem

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Last week’s tornadoes remind me that we have a growing problem of tornadoes. Not there are anymore tornadoes now than there were say 50-100 years ago. There may actually be an increase in the future as the planet continues to warm but so far there is no real evidence of an increase in hurricanes or tornadoes as a result of the temperature rises in the last 100 years.

The problem is urban sprawl.If you were to have an identical repeat of the April 3 1974 tornadoes across North Alabama today, the damage and injuries would be astronomically higher. In 1974, Madison was a small village compared to today’s city. Up until the late 1990’s there were almost no reports on record of a deadly tornado going through a major city. This is not surprising.

The amount of area covered by a large downtown area is actually very small compared to the area of an entire state.Look at Oklahoma City and Birmingham. Both hit by deadly tornadoes. Orlando too. Cities are much bigger than they were 30 years ago. Therefore, the risk of an EF4 or EF5 tornado coming through one is higher.

There will be more large city tornadoes in the future as well.There is some good news. Most tornadoes are weak ones. EF0 to EF2. The deadly EF4 and EF5 tornadoes are very rare. We can see them forming on radar very well. They had almost an hour warning of the Enterprise tornado and 15 mins. of warning (If not more) of the twister that hit Americus, Georgia.

This is why we push NOAA radios. If you have a plan and you have a way of getting the warning. You can survive these deadly storms. Your house may not…but you probably will.