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2011 worst year ever for tornadoes, more Oklahomans at risk

2011 worst year ever for tornadoes, more Oklahomans at risk

2011 worst year ever for tornadoes, more Oklahomans at risk
Photo Credit: Russell Mills
Tornado Damage in Woodward, Oklahoma April 16, 2012 KRMG Tulsa

2011 worst year ever for tornadoes, more Oklahomans at risk

The year 2011 saw several records set for the most tornadoes on record, the result of a trend that has seen a steady increase in reported tornadoes averaging some 14 percent a year for several decades.

The number of reported tornadoes doesn't necessarily correspond to a massive growth in the number of tornadoes spawned, as a much higher percentage that touch down now get reported.

But in 2011 more than 1,600 tornadoes were reported nationwide, with April setting the all-time record for a single month and April 27th the record for a single day, 200 reported tornadoes in a 24-hour period.

According to a report issued by famed insurance company Lloyd's of London:

Although tornadoes occur across the world, the US experiences more tornadoes than any other country.
Tornadoes in the US are an annual phenomenon, every year, an average of 1,200 tornadoes kill at least 60
people, injure 1,500 more and cause over $400m in damage.1 This means that, apart from tropical cyclones,
thunderstorms are the most important US severe weather hazard for the insurance industry. When
examining data from the past few decades, aggregated losses show a rising trend, predominantly due to
increasing exposure. A violent, long track tornado or severe hailstorm has the potential to cause a significant
single loss if it passes through a built-up area and, as populations increase and migrate, this is becoming
increasingly more likely.
2011 was an unusually active and deadly year for tornadoes across the US, with over 1,600 tornadoes
recorded across the country, more than any other year on record except for 2004.  2011 was a record
breaking year in terms of tornadoes, with the greatest number of tornadoes in a single month (758 in April)
as well as the greatest daily total (200, 27 April).  Costs were high, with seven individual tornado and severe
weather outbreaks recording damages that exceeded $1 billion. Total damage from the outbreaks is estimated to
have exceeded $28billion.  This figure represents the highest costs in terms of property damage from severe
thunderstorms in a single year since records began.  The two 2011 events are among the top ten natural
catastrophe losses for the US; in relative terms this amounts to almost half the loss inflicted by Hurricane
Katrina in 2005 and five times that caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Due to the large losses and high frequency and severity of tornadoes, the 2011 season attracted much
attention from the insurance and risk management industries, raising important questions about tornado risk.
Among them, does the unusually active 2011 represent a trend of increasing tornado activity and is tornado
risk changing?

The report concluded that the risk is indeed greater than ever, partly because more people live in mobile homes in Oklahoma.

State Insurance Commissioner John Doak read the Lloyd's report, and issued this statement:

A new report from Lloyd’s of London, the world’s specialist insurance market, found that a growing number of Oklahomans are becoming increasing vulnerable to tornadoes. The report, Tornadoes: A Rising Risk? indicates that the growing density of mobile home parks in Oklahoma and other ‘Tornado Alley’ states is placing a greater risk on lives and homes.

“This report should be a wakeup call,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “Mobile homes offer no protection from a tornado. Those who choose to live in one must have a safety plan in place. Chances are, if you try to ride out the storm in a mobile home, you won’t survive.”

Every year, an average of 1,200 tornadoes kill at least 60 people, injure 1,500 more and cause over $400 million in damage across the world. In 2012, 41 tornadoes struck Oklahoma. Six people were killed in an April twister, all in a Woodward mobile home park.

According to the National Weather Service, the percentage of deaths in mobile homes has more than doubled, from 24 percent in 1976 to 50 percent in 2000. The Lloyd’s of London report claims that one third of all tornado deaths now happen in mobile homes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that people living in mobile homes are 23 times more likely to be killed than those living in permanent homes.

“The message is this. If you live in a mobile home, make your severe weather safety plan right now,” said Doak. “Pay close attention to the weather reports. Find a nearby friend or family member with a shelter or permanent home and make plans to go there when severe weather strikes. Find out if your city or town has a community shelter. But whatever you do, do not stay in a mobile home. It’s a deadly mistake.”

The entire report can be found at http://www.ok.gov/oid/documents/Lloyds_TornadoRiskReport.pdf

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