21 Sep '11, 2pm

Unheeded Tornado Warnings Just One Lesson from Joplin

The death toll from the Joplin tornado now exceeds 160 souls making it the largest single tornado event since records were kept. Explaining such a high fatality rate is a challenge and one of the issues being studied is the public response to the warnings given by the National Weather Service. One of the research thrusts of our work on tornadoes has been to examine the effect of false alarms on casualties. While many believe in a “cry wolf” effect that occurs when people tune out warnings of many types, to actually chronicle this effect for natural hazards is difficult. Our study uses a false alarm rate for tornadoes as a control variable in a model to estimate casualties and we find that an increase in the false alarm rate does translate to higher casualties. But we cannot use an econometric model to dissect the phenomenon beyond simply noting that a significant relations...

Full article: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/unheeded-tor...

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