Several homes in Harrison, Tenn., were completely destroyed or severely damaged in a March 2, 2018, tornado. (FEMA photo/Tim Burkitt)

Tornado Fatalities Continue to Fall, Despite Population Growth in Tornado Alley

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 ushered in a movement of westward migration in the United States, and with new territory came new challenges – and weather phenomena. The rate of tornado-related fatalities increased faster than the rate of population growth until the start of the 20th century, according to a new study in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society.

Around 1916, that trend started to reverse. Ernest Agee, a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University, credits the decline in fatalities to better scientific understanding of tornadoes and technology to warn people of developing storm events. Although tornadoes claim fewer than 100 lives each year in the U.S. on average, there’s more work to be done to minimize tornado-related fatalities.

“We need to keep funding resources to improve observations and detection. The dual-polarization Doppler radar and high-resolution images of the newest GOES satellite have significantly enhanced our ability to detect and predict tornadoes,” Agee said. “However, even with the current technology and numerical simulation capability, precise location and tornado intensity need further refinement. A holistic approach to fatality prevention also relies on tornado-proof structures and preparedness plans from schools and businesses to homes and mobile park communities.”

Read more at Purdue University

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