I’m appalled at the loss of life–the death toll stands near 300 as I write this–in this week’s devastating tornado swarm. The meteorological killing fields extended from the Deep South into Virginia. The number of twisters and dead rivals those of the great Super Outbreak of April 1974. In fact, to find tornado fatality lists that are substantially longer than those of this week and of 1974, you’d have to go back prior to World War II.
The question that comes to me then is why, in this day and age with all of its tools and technology, should so many have perished?
In 1974 there were no Doppler radars, no Weather Channel, no Facebook, no Twitter, no cell phones. There was nothing close to the detection, analysis and communication capabilities that today’s storm warning community has. It’s tragically understandable that over 300 lives were loss in the Super Outbreak. But in 2011?
Certainly the Storm Prediction Center and Dr. Greg Forbes at The Weather Channel (my former employer) did their jobs in issuing alerts well before the dangerous days of this week unfolded.
And yet… so many lives.
Maybe it was just the nature of the event. Some of the twisters spun up to EF-5 intensity. So in those instances there was no place to run, no place to hide. Virtually nothing will survive an EF-5 monster above ground.
So that’s one option: this was an extreme weather event that was just a flat-out killer.
But I wonder, were there cases where the warnings were late, where sirens failed, or where people were just oblivious to the threat (hard to believe in this day and age of instant communications)? Were there individuals who didn’t know what to do once a warning was issued? Did some panic?
I’m not pointing fingers. I don’t know. But we ought to find out. So I’m posing some questions. Again, maybe the extreme death toll was unavoidable. Yet as I said, I’m appalled at the loss of life in this Doppler- and instant communications-age. My gut tells me that the number of fatalities shouldn’t have been close to those of over 35 years ago.
What do you think?