Heed Warnings and Stay Safe

Now a year after the devastating tornadoes in Alabama, a study reports that most new about the incoming storms.  Please read the following article that reminds us to listen to warnings of these events and be prepared for the worst.

Most victims knew Alabama twisters were coming, study says

Published April 27, 2012

Associated Press

  • AlabamaTornado.jpg

    April 16: Steve Sutherland sits on the stoop to his families tornado destroyed home in Hackleburg, Ala. It was about 3:20 p.m. a year ago when the skies grew dark over the northwest Alabama town of Hackleburg and a tornado dropped from the sky. (AP)

ATLANTA –  Most of the victims of last year’s epic tornado outbreak in Alabama had at least one thing in common: They knew the storm was coming.

A year after the onslaught of dozens of twisters killed at least 250 people in Alabama and more elsewhere in the South, federal researchers are completing a study of who died and where they were when it happened. Among the conclusions so far: Nearly half of the people who died had been advised to take shelter. Indeed, most of them did.

But many of the tornadoes were so fierce that few structures were able to withstand them.

“These were catastrophic winds that could destroy pretty much anything in its path,” Cindy Chiu, an epidemic intelligence service officer, said in reporting preliminary findings this month at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conference in Atlanta.

Unlike in other tornado outbreaks, the largest group of people who died were in single-family houses — not mobile homes — the CDC analysis found.

The April 27, 2011, outbreak involved 62 tornadoes that stretched along ground-hugging tracks that covered more than 1,000 miles. Fatalities were reported from central Alabama to far north Alabama.

While many who heard the warnings sought shelter, others took their chances and lost.

The American Red Cross shares disaster data with the CDC, including what was gathered in extensive interviews with families of the deceased.

Relatives of an 80-year-old woman from Lawrence County “notified her of impending storm — asked her to go to storm shelter next door. She refused, said if her time to go, she would.”

The wife of a 35-year-old man from Franklin County heard the warning on TV, according to another vignette provided by Chiu. “She and sons went to basement of neighbors. He stayed in the home,” the vignette states. “Tornado struck (at) 330pm and he was found 30 mins later near a tree. He was badly injured and died in the hospital.”

The CDC has been examining reports of 255 deaths, including a few for which no Alabama death certificate has been found yet. It’s possible a few people were injured in Alabama but died in hospitals in nearby states, Chiu said.

For 120 of those 255, the CDC determined whether the victims knew of the coming tornadoes ahead of time. And 105 were warned.

Of those, 70 took some kind of protective action, like covering themselves or going to what they thought was a safer location or room — including 45 who sought proper shelter, like a basement or interior room on the lowest floor possible. Nineteen were in bathrooms, 10 in basements, 10 in bedrooms and 10 in hallways and smaller numbers in other rooms.

The average age of those who died was 50, and a third of the deaths were people 65 and older, the CDC found.

Being elderly is considered one of the greatest risk factors for death and injury in a tornado.

Older people may be less mobile and have more difficulty getting to shelter. They may be frail, and more likely to die from an injury that might not kill a healthier and younger person.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/27/most-victims-knew-alabama-twisters-were-coming-study-says/#ixzz1tGlIjZhB


Rare tornadoes in Colorado

Rare tornadoes in Colorado this Friday morning remind us all to be prepared for tornadoes, even in areas where the typical tornado season has yet to begin.  Please read the following article for more information.

Colo. Authorities Report Tornado; 5 Homes Gone


 EADS, Colo. April 27, 2012 (AP)


At least five homes were destroyed early Friday after as many as three rare nighttime tornadoes reportedly ripped through sparsely populated counties on the southeastern Colorado plains.

The state emergency management division said tornadoes were reported in Prowers, Kiowa and Bent counties. Lamar authorities in Prowers County said they spotted a fast and large tornado south of the city that ripped through four homes and left at least two people injured.

A fifth home in Chivington was totaled after the five people sleeping inside escaped, said owner Therisa Brown, who added that there was no warning before her home was demolished.

“We woke up to the roof getting ripped off,” Brown said. “We went to the living room and we lifted a wall off of a friend who was staying with us. That’s when the tornado circled back and it hit the house again. We barely made it into the bathroom.”


She said only a few exterior walls remained of her home.

Chris Sorensen, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, said the areas hit were mostly isolated farmland. A tractor-trailer was blown over on Colorado Highway 96 near Chivington, in Kiowa County.

Nearby in Eads, Mandy Adamson, who works at the Co-Op Service Station, said the damage was isolated.

“All I know is that it traveled into Lamar from someplace else, it got a ranch near there and it went up (north) to Chivington and that’s where it took out another house,” Adamson said.

Overnight tornadoes are rare in Colorado, where the temperature usually drops at night, said forecaster Patrick Cioffi. The severe weather hit after near record highs in the 80s. Tornado season usually doesn’t begin until May in Colorado.

The National Weather Service said a survey team was heading to the area to confirm any touchdowns. The same band of storms also dropped snow in Breckenridge and the Eisenhower Tunnel, said forecaster Todd Dankers in Boulder. High winds swept the Western Slope, but no injuries were reported, he said.

Kiowa County emergency manager Jeffrey Wright said authorities were going home to home to locate residents. Power was out in several areas, and state transportation officials said motorists were having trouble finding gas.


Tornadoes Hit the Midwest

Tornadoes struck Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Iowa on Saturday, April 14, 2012.  The tornadoes resulted 5 dead, 30 injured, and many people picking up the pieces today.  Please read the following article from USA Today to learn more.

Weekend Tornadoes leave a ‘royal mess’ in the Midwest; 5 dead

By James Heggen, Charisse Jones and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY


Iowa emergency officials said Sunday that a large part of the town of Thurman was destroyed Saturday night, possibly by a tornado.

Iowa emergency officials said Sunday that a large part of the town of Thurman was destroyed Saturday night, possibly by a tornado.

By Chris Machian, The Omaha World-Herald via AP

CRESTON, Iowa – Parts of the Midwest were starting on Sunday to pick up the pieces and tally the damage left after scores of tornadoes roared through the plains over the weekend, leaving five dead, dozens injured and homes and buildings reduced to rubble.

  • Sara Shogren, left, is hugged by Zoey Patrick as friends sort through the rubble of Patrick's home Sunday in Marquette, Kan.By Tom Dorsey, AP

    Sara Shogren, left, is hugged by Zoey Patrick as friends sort through the rubble of Patrick’s home Sunday in Marquette, Kan.

There were roughly 100 reports of tornadoes Saturday and early Sunday, primarily in Kansas but also in northwest Oklahoma, Nebraska and Iowa, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Jonathan Erdman.

And more bad weather was expected through Monday morning in the nation’s midsection. Forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., warned of more tornadoes and severe storms, the most dangerous likely in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

The city of Woodward, Okla., bore the worst of the weekend storms. Five people died and 30 were injured. City manager Alan Riffel told CNN that 89 homes and 13 businesses had been destroyed. Up to 250 emergency responders from other communities and agencies had come to the city’s aid.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter and planned to dispatch mobile feeding trucks to neighborhoods and offer assistance to weary residents.

“This was a horrific event, but I’ve come across people in the neighborhoods in high spirits because they’ve got their lives,” says Rusty Surette, a spokesman for the Central and Western Oklahoma region of the American Red Cross, which also opened a shelter in Norman, where a tornado struck Friday.

Here in Creston, an unconfirmed tornado is believed to have struck Saturday night.

“We didn’t receive any warning,” said police chief Paul Ver Meer.

There were no deaths, though, and only minor injuries, he said. Two homes were destroyed, and a hospital and other nearby buildings were damaged.

Another unconfirmed tornado is believed to have devastated the southwestern Iowa town of Thurman, where at least 75% of the homes were wiped out or damaged.

“It’s a royal mess,” said Mike Crecelius, director of emergency management for Fremont County. But no fatalities or injuries were reported.

Some 97 tornadoes swept through Kansas, leaving a dozen people injured but causing no deaths, said Steve Larson, spokesman for the adjutant general, who oversees the state’s emergency management. Gov. Sam Brownback declared 37 counties in the central part of the state to be disaster areas. On Sunday he flew to Wichita and nearby communities to see the damage first-hand, Larson said.

The severe weather ruptured gas lines, plunged thousands of Kansans into darkness and damaged roughly 100 homes in a Wichita mobile home park. Officials credited frequent early warnings about the coming storms to saving lives.

“That information, we put it out early and often, making sure people knew to take cover, to take shelter,” Larson said. “And I think that in large part kept people from dying or being hurt.”

Still, residents were struggling to cope with all they had lost.

By Nati Harnik, AP

Gary Gladwin looks over his wrecked property where he stored a 1937 Chevy, in Thurman, Iowa, on Sunday.

Yvonne Tucker told the Associated Press that the tornado destroyed her home. She and other residents of her mobile home park in Wichita had ridden out the storm in a shelter.

“I didn’t think it was that bad until I walked down my street, and everything is gone,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I’ve seen it on TV, but when it happens to you, it’s surreal.”

Meteorologists had been warning residents of the central and southern Plains about the outbreak for several days. For only the second time in history, the Storm Prediction Center issued a “high” risk for severe weather more than 24 hours in advance. In all, local National Weather Service offices issued 124 tornado warnings on Saturday, Erdman reported.

The weekend’s storms brought the number of people killed by tornadoes this year to 62, according to the Storm Prediction Center. In an average year, tornadoes kill about 60 Americans. The heart of the tornado season is still to come. May tends to be the busiest month.

By later today, the Midwest is likely to get a reprieve. Cooler, drier weather is likely for most of the areas that were hit by tornadoes over the weekend, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Ressler. The most severe weather is expected to be strong winds and possible large hail around the eastern Great Lakes.

Heggen reports for The Des Moines Register. Jones reported from New York, Rice from Silver Spring, Md. Contributing: The Associated Press


Tornado Alley

As tornado season gets underway, everyone should be prepared.  Tornadoes don’t just hit  the area  referred to as “tornado alley,” they can strike many locations, often without a lot of time to prepare.  Please read the following article from USA Today and think of how you could prepare for a possible tornado in your town!

Tornado Alley’ grows wider, report says

By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

We all know that Dorothy’s house in Kansas was in “Tornado Alley,” but maybe Scarlett O’Hara‘s fabled Tara in Georgia was there, too.

Find a Forecast

The Weather Channel logo

  • Karly Gale, part of a relief group from Xavier University, helped with recovery efforts in Limestone County, Ala., after tornadoes uprooted trees and flattened buildings in early March.By Brennen G. Smith, The Decatur (Ala.) Daily, via AP

    Karly Gale, part of a relief group from Xavier University, helped with recovery efforts in Limestone County, Ala., after tornadoes uprooted trees and flattened buildings in early March.

By Brennen G. Smith, The Decatur (Ala.) Daily, via AP

Karly Gale, part of a relief group from Xavier University, helped with recovery efforts in Limestone County, Ala., after tornadoes uprooted trees and flattened buildings in early March.

A report finds that the traditional boundaries of Tornado Alley — which has centered on the Plains states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota— should be expanded to include much of the Midwest and Deep South, because the frequency and severity of tornadoes in those areas is much more widespread than commonly believed.

The report was released in late March by CoreLogic, a private research and consulting company based in Santa Ana, Calif., that provides information and services to businesses and government.

In fact, according to the report, only one state in the traditional Tornado Alley — Kansas — was among the top five states for the most tornadoes from 1980 to 2009. The others were Florida, Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The report was triggered by last year’s ferocious tornado season.

The worst outbreak was in the Southeast in April, when 321 people died and $7.3 billion in insured losses occurred. CoreLogic says it was the most expensive tornado outbreak ever recorded.

“The inland South has experienced rapid (economic) growth in the past 20 to 30 years,” says Howard Botts of CoreLogic, noting that virtually every foreign car company has its factories in the South.

“The apparent increase in the number of incidents and shift in geographic distribution of losses … last year in the U.S. called the long-held notion of risk concentration in Tornado Alley into question,” Botts says.

The report states that many of the severe weather events outside the Plains in 2011 were seen as anomalies but should not have been.

Tornado risk extends across much of the eastern half of the nation, CoreLogic says, and at least 26 states have some area facing extreme tornado risk.

Tornadoes and their associated severe thunderstorms account for 57% of insured catastrophic losses in the USA each year, Botts says.

Another study last year by meteorologist Grady Dixon of Mississippi State University also found that there is a greater likelihood of tornadoes hitting what the study called “Dixie Alley” in the South than the traditional Tornado Alley.

Other tornado experts found flaws in the CoreLogic report: “If the report is trying to identify where the most tornadoes are, then it’s broader than the Plains, and we’ve known that for decades,” says Harold Brooks, a research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., who did not contribute to the report.

Brooks says the traditional Tornado Alley consistently has very active tornado seasons: “There aren’t very many down years in the Plains.”

“In the Southeast,” Brooks says, “it’s feast or famine.” There may be few tornadoes some years, or they might strike at different times of the year, followed by “a few really big years,” he says.

“The report makes grand assumptions based on underlying problematic data,” says Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. He says there really hasn’t been an increase in the most powerful tornadoes in recent years across the country.

“With respect to significant (EF2 and stronger) tornadoes, there is no statistically significant trend in these tornadoes, the ones that pose the greatest threat to life and property,” Carbin says.


Feature on Channel 8 news in Dallas

Disaster info web site donated to Forney, changing tornado response

Please go to http://www.wfaa.com/news/Disaster-info-website-donated-to-Forney-changing-its-tornado-response-146499535.html to watch the full feature.


Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitelyWFAA

Posted on April 6, 2012 at 11:20 PM

FORNEY – Forney has been blessed with unprecedented community support after Tuesday’s EF-3 tornado damaged or destroyed 95 homes.

But one thing this Kaufman County city did not expect was Caitria O’Neill, a young woman from Massachusetts.

“At least we’re doing something that helps people learn how to recover from a disaster,” said O’Neill, 23.

She flew to Forney with her laptop, and a unique computer program she helped create.

“Every line of code that we put in is going to change somebody’s life,” Caitria said.

It’s a simple web site template, called Recovers.org, that any city can employ. The one O’Neill established for Forney is http://forney.recovers.org.

It connects victims with volunteers and even donors.

“It’s really identifying specific needs and specific people willing to give it to them,” said Forney City Manager Brian Brooks.

Victims post specifically what they need, volunteers post their skill or expertise, and donors post items they’re willing to give away.

The city or web site administrator then finds the best matches for them all.

In its first day online, the web site attracted 2,459 clicks.

“And… oh my gosh! We just went up even more,” O’Neill said, while reviewing analytics. “8,000 on Thursday!”

A month after she graduated from Harvard last year, a twister touched down in her hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.

That’s when O’Neill realized the need to organize disaster information, and not let goodwill go to waste.

She said she chose Forney for her first web site because unlike Arlington and Lancaster, which also experienced their own tornadoes, this city did not have a way to accept donations on its official web site.

Organizers who have seen the site she established for Forney for free said it will change the way communities respond to disaster.

Two grants from MIT got the 23 year old here. Everything else comes out of her own pocket.

Caitria said she isn’t looking for a profit, but hopes one day Recovers.org can at least pay for itself, if other cities adopt their own templates before experiencing what Forney now faces.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com


Our Work in Forney, TX!

Recovers.org has set up a website (forney.recovers.org) to help Forney, TX recover.  Forney was the only location, out of the many in Texas that encountered tornadoes this past week, that was hit by an EF3 tornado.  The website took off right away and overnight it became filled with loads of possible donations and volunteers.  City members have been taught how to use the site and are eager to use it after they recover from the tornado.  Below are images of the tornado recovery effort and the destruction that took place in Forney, TX.

Tornadoes Hit Texas

Recovers.org is helping out with the recovery effort in Texas, in one of the strangest tornado seasons we’ve had in years.

Please read the following article from MSNBC’s Miguel Llanos for information regarding the recent tornadoes in Texas:

800 homes hit in Dallas area during ‘very unusual’ tornado season

As experts assessed reports that up to 18 tornadoes hit the Dallas area on Tuesday, the cleanup and rebuilding began Wednesday for -thousands of residents from the more than 800 homes destroyed or damaged.

Among the hardest cities hit were the Dallas suburbs of Arlington, where more than 400 homes were damaged, and Lancaster, where some 300 structures were damaged and 10 people were injured, two seriously, according to NBCDFW.com.

The National Weather Service was investigating reports that up to 18 tornadoes touched down during a relatively short time frame.

“We’re at just the beginning of a very unusual” tornado season, NBC weather anchor Al Roker said on TODAY. April 2011 saw a record 758 tornadoes, he added, “hopefully we’re not on track for that this year.”

Weather.com meteorologist Greg Forbes told TODAY that the season is already “running about 50 percent above average for the number of tornadoes.”

“We’ve had record heat,” he added, and “that warmth is a big ingredient that provides the instability for the storms.”

On Tuesday, one twister was seen on video tossing semi-trailers from an operations yard into the air with ease. Schneider National, the trucking company that owns the yard, said Wednesday that no one was hurt but that dozens of trailers were destroyed or damaged.

Despite the intensity of the slow-moving storms, no fatalities were reported.

In Arlington, a twister tore through part of a nursing home, injuring two residents.

“The windows were flying out, and my sister is paralyzed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room,” NBCDFW.com quoted Joy Johnston as saying. “It was terribly loud.”

Johnston said her 79-year-old sister, whom she was visiting, was taken to the hospital because of her delicate health.

“The hallways were all jammed,” Johnston said. “Everyone was trying to help each other to make a path for others. I’d say everybody was out of their rooms within 20 minutes.”

The storm system moved into the Southeast on Wednesday and the weather.com published a map showing the danger area for thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes there.

The danger zone stretched from the Texas coast and parts of East Texas to northern Florida, and from Kansas to Virginia.

The greatest chances of a severe storm Wednesday were in Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, Mobile and Lake Charles.