THE STUDY APRIL 4, 2012
Cleanup is underway after a series of fierce tornadoes ripped through Dallas. As many as thirteen twisters touched down in the northern part of the state, but so far, no fatalities have been reported. Why weren’t the storms more deadly?
According to one 2007 study, Texas’s good fortune this week was uncommon. Surveying tornado fatalities in the U.S. from 1880 to 2005, it found that “the highest fatality tallies tend to stretch from Oklahoma and northeast Texas to Georgia, encompassing most of the Red River (of the South), Tennessee, and lower–Mississippi River Valley regions.” Interestingly, the areas with the most tornado-related deaths were not the areas with the most tornadoes. Instead, the most important factors in the lethality of tornadoes seem to be “physical and social”—elderly people, for instance, are more vulnerable than young people, and above-average “mobile home density in the Southeast” was found to be a “key reason” for the storms’ unique deadliness in that region.