Facts About The Joplin, Missouri Tornado

The following is an excerpt from a question and answer article that appeared in the May 25th edition of the New York Times, regarding the Joplin, Missouri tornado, for those of you who may be wondering:

Orchard, Iowa Tornado 06-10-08

A funnel cloud touching down in Orchard, Iowa, on June 10, 2008. Lori Mehmen took the photo from outside her front door before seeking shelter.

Question:  How bad has this year's tornado season been, relative to other years?

Answer: Extraordinarily bad, even by historical standards. The death toll, now at more than 480, is the highest since 1953, when an outbreak of twisters across the Midwest and the Northeast claimed 519 lives. The high death toll this year is all the more remarkable considering that early warning systems are in place throughout tornado country, made possible by the advent of Doppler radar. Many tornado experts believed that the advances in technology had greatly diminished the risk of mass tornado fatalities.

"We never thought there'd be another year of deaths like this, with all our warning systems," said Thomas P. Grazulis, a tornado historian.

Since 1875, there have been just 15 years with more than 360 tornado deaths, and none since 1975. The single deadliest tornado year in the United States was 1925, with 794 fatalities. This year now ranks eighth on the list of deadliest tornado years.

The tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., on Sunday, with its death toll now standing at 122, is the deadliest in recorded history. The second deadliest was a twister that barreled through Flint, Mich., in 1953, killing 116.

-- John Collins Rudolf

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