Today was the second day of the NOAA Weather Ready Nation Conference in Norman, OK.
Yesterday, I talked about the fact that 99% of 2011 tornado-related fatalities occurred in locations that were in both a tornado watch and a tornado warning at the time the tornado arrived. I called that a remarkable scientific accomplishment that virtually no one — inside or outside of meteorology — is aware of.
Want to know how big an accomplishment the 99% is? Consider: It was recently announced that Albert Pujols will receive $250 million dollars over the next ten years to strike out two-thirds of the time*! Pujols’ lifetime batting average is .328, meaning he gets a hit slightly less than one-third of his at bats.
As I have learned more today, I have convinced the “tornado problem” is not homogeneous. So, I want to propose an idea that will be controversial: Weather science has solved the tornado problem for those who live in conventional housing.
Take a look at this graph I presented yesterday. It is a logarithmic graph from NOAA’s Dr. Harold Brooks that depicts the death rate from tornadoes (deaths per million population):
|click to enlarge
If you take out 2011, the death rate in conventional homes has been cut more than 99.3% as compared to what it was before the tornado warning system was created.
Unfortunately, the death rate in conventional homes will never be zero, especially in F-4 and F-5 tornadoes.
Since zero is impossible, is it worth spending finite dollars and research resources to try to “move the needle” from 99.3% closer to 100%? Before you answer yes, let me go on.
If you look at the same graph above, the black squares show the death rate in mobile homes. For mobile homes, which house more and more American families, the needle has hardly moved at all. The death rate in mobile homes now is about the same as in conventional housing before the tornado warning system was created.
So, here is what I conclude: While we should strive to improve the accuracy, timeliness, and geographic specificity of all tornado warnings we should stop putting effort into specifically improving the safety of people in conventional homes and apartments. Instead, put that money into mobile home safety.
When resources are finite, good management dictates putting those resources where they will do the most good. In the case of tornado safety, that appears to be mobile homes.
Comments are welcome!
* Thank you, Dave Freeman.