Extreme Vulnerability versus Extreme Weather in the 2011 Season
Natural hazards researchers have long recognized that disasters are not merely acts of God but rather the joint product of natural events and human actions, like building on flood plains or in coastal areas vulnerable to hurricane storm surge (Mileti 1999). From this perspective, an extreme year for tornado fatalities like 2011 would be a product of either extreme weather (many long-track strong or violent tornadoes) or extreme societal vulnerability (perhaps a previously unrecognized form of vulnerability), or both in combination. Both the weather and vulnerability have surface plausibility as explanations. April 2011 featured a record number of tornadoes, and the April 27 outbreak (which accounted for more than half of 2011 fatalities) had a record number of tornadoes for a 24-hour period. A total of six EF-5 tornadoes have occurred in 2011, compared to just two EF-5 tornadoes nationally over the prior decade. In terms of vulnerability, most of the April deaths occurred in the Southeastern United States, which is known to be more susceptible to tornado fatalities (Boruff et al. 2003; Ashley 2007; Simmons and Sutter 2011).
KeywordsDeath Toll Mobile Home National Climatic Data Center Hurricane Storm Surge Tornado Fatality
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