This past Tuesday saw over 40 tornadoes touch down across Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi. The death toll from these storms currently stands at 57 making it one of the 15 worst tornado death tolls since 1950, and the nation’s deadliest swarm of tornadoes since 76 people were killed in Pennsylvania and Ohio on May 31, 1985.
It is currently believed that because February tornadoes are not all that common, simple human nature may have been the root reason for so many fatalities. Simply put, people weren’t expecting them or believing the warnings that were issued well in advance. From USA Today:
“Because February tornadoes are relatively rare, many residents didn’t respond quickly to warnings from weather forecasters because they didn’t believe the threat was serious until a storm was upon them. In fact, February tornadoes are “almost an annual event,” Brooks said. In 2007, there were three killer tornadoes in February — two in Florida and one in Louisiana — that killed a total of 22 people. During the most common months for tornadoes — March, April, May and June — fatalities typically are 15% lower and injuries are 22% lower because people expect such storms and prepare for them, said Dan Sutter, an economist at the University of Texas Pan American who has studied tornadoes for eight years.”
This truly is a tragedy and one has to wonder how many of these deaths could have been avoided had residents simply heeded the warnings that were issued. For more information, please see:
Memphis radar image from February 5, 2008