Presented by: U.S. Tornadoes
The tornado season of 2011 will be one for the record books. Devastating tornadoes ripped through the South, causing more than 580 deaths and leveling towns like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.
You could have gotten the impression that we had the tornado loss-of-life problem licked based on the very low death tolls in recent decades, but we don’t.
Roger Pielke Jr., University of Colorado
One of the lessons from this tornado season is that evaluating tornado risk effectively requires a very long- term perspective. Even a 20- or 30-year perspective isn’t enough. You have to look back half a century to see a tornado season that produced a death toll like this one.
This spring’s tornadoes produced an estimated $16 billion in insured losses and as much as $23 billion in total losses. Though this season produced the largest tornado losses in absolute dollars, the 1965 and 1974 seasons would have been worse had they occurred today.
Researchers will be working hard to understand why this tornado season was so severe. Given the declining number of strong tornadoes in recent years, 2011 was a definite anomaly.
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