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Distributed for American Meteorological Society

Deadly Season

Analysis of the 2011 Tornado Outbreaks

In 2011, despite continued developments in forecasting, tracking, and warning technology, the United States was hit by the deadliest tornado season in decades. More than 1,200 tornadoes touched down, shattering communities and their safety nets, and killing more than 500 people—a death toll unmatched since 1953.
Drawing on the unique analysis described in their first book, Economic and Societal Impacts of Tornadoes, economists Kevin M. Simmons and Daniel Sutter here examine the factors that contributed to the outcomes of such tornadoes as the mid-April outbreak that devastated communities in North Carolina, the “Super Outbreak” across the southern and eastern United States in late April, and the single, mile-wide funnel that touched down in Joplin, Missouri, in late May. In the course of their study the authors identify patterns and anomalies, and reconsider previous assertions about the effectiveness of the Doppler radar and storm warning systems. Their conclusions, as well their assessment of early recovery efforts, are aimed at helping community leaders and policy-makers keep vulnerable populations safer in the future.

120 pages | 10 tables, 10 charts | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2012

Earth Sciences: Meteorology

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Greg Forbes

1. The 2011 Tornado Season in Historical Perspective
1.1 An Overview of the Season
1.2 How Much of an Outlier was 2011?
1.3 The Challenge for Researchers
1.4 Outline of the Book
2. Southeastern Vulnerability and the April 27–28 Tornado Outbreak
2.1 Introduction: A Record Outbreak in the Wrong Place?
2.2 Patterns of Vulnerability in the Southeast
2.3 Comparing Southeastern Vulnerabilities to Other Regions
2.4 Assessing the Record Outbreak
2.5 Conclusion
3. Extreme Vulnerability Versus Extreme Weather in the 2011 Season
3.1 Warning Regression Model
3.2 Do Fatalities Regressions Anticipate the 2011 Death Tolls?
3.3 Projecting Fatalities Using Damage and Injuries
3.4 Conclusion
4. Doppler Radar, Warnings, and Electric Power
4.1 Do Doppler Radar Effects Need To Be Revised?
4.2 Warnings and Power Outages
4.3 Conclusion
5. Recovery from Tornadoes
5.1 Disaster Impacts and Evidence on Recovery from Tornadoes
5.2 Population Change after Significant Tornadoes
5.3 Case Study: The Tri-State Tornado
5.4 Tornadoes and the Local Economy
5.5 Conclusion
6. Lessons Learned and the Path Forward
6.1 Societal Vulnerabilities Highlighted by the 2011 Season
6.2 Can the Danger from Violent Tornadoes Be Efficiently Reduced?


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