Turmoil still engulfs the state of Nebraska, and hearts go out to all of the people being affected by the storms, but people may be wondering about how these tornadoes are changing the face of the United States. According to the NOAA’s NCDC, there are roughly 1,253 tornadoes in the U.S each year, most of which occur in “Tornado Alley”, that is, Nebraska, Oklahoma, north Texas, and Kansas. With an average of 268 tornadoes per year, these states are covered in about 30 percent of them. Tornado Alley is hit regularly by some of the most powerful demonstrations of natures bad temperament anywhere in the world. Tornadoes cost these states, as well as the people who live in them, billions of dollars, but the loss of course, is not only financial.
The Tornado History Project contains a lot of key information regarding this particular weather phenomenon. It states that between the years 1950 and 2012 there were a total of 5,587 deaths related to tornadoes, and about 20 percent of those, around 1,100 people, were deaths taking place in Tornado Alley. Tornadoes are categorized by a classification system known as the EF-Scale(Enhanced Fujita Scale), and they range, based on wind speed, between EF-0(65-85 MPH) all the way up to an EF-5(200-234 MPH). May 5 of this year marked 50 years since the last EF-5 tornado swept through Nebraska in 1964. As the storm raged, the quarter-mile wide tornado tore through 70 miles, barely missing towns and destroying farms along the way, killing two and injuring many more. Since then however, there has not been a EF-5 in Nebraska.
Sometimes residents only have minutes to respond when a tornado warning is issued. In 2011 the people of Joplin, Missouri only had 24 minutes before the EF-5 tornado touched down, and once it did, it stayed on the ground for 22 miles, took 158 lives, and injured more than 1,000 others, becoming the 7th most deadly tornado in U.S history. While reading about disasters like these is important, it is even more important to understand how storms, like the one in Nebraska today, are reshaping the face of the central part of the U.S., as well as the rest of the country, and what can be done to save those lives should the day come when the storm returns.
One crazy statistic, according to a study published March 1, 2013, showed that after the storm hit, Joplin residents believed that their chances were 1 in 10 that they would be injured should another tornado occur, and that their friends were more likely to be injured than they were. In fact the study showed that people who homes were destroyed showed more optimism six months after the tornado hit than their friends who were unaffected. While remembering the past can be painful, learning from it will always be important when disaster strikes.
Just in case a siren goes off there are a few steps that need to be taken very quickly. First of all getting indoors, inside a good strong building, is the most important thing. Staying away from windows, getting down low, and covering the neck as well as the head to protect them from flying debris are also important. Try to get down in a basement or shelter if possible. It is important not to try to outrun a tornado, even in a car. If caught outside get inside a vehicle, buckle in, and drive to a sturdy building near by. For a more detailed list see the sources cited below. Those in Nebraska today did all they could to protect their families, and save lives. Nebraska though is just one example of how the face of America is changing. The storms are undoubtedly going to return one day, so it is important to never underestimate natures power, and always be ready to run when you hear the train coming down the tracks.
Opinion By Phillip Schmidt
NOAA – U.S. Tornado Climatology
The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel – Tornado Warning: How to Protect Yourself
United States Tornadoes
CNN – They Dad 24 Minutes to Escape the Twister