Page 25 - Summer Alumni Magazine 2012

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TROY Magazine
be that it was just extreme weather – an
extreme number of tornadoes, where
those tornadoes happened to hit, how
strong they were – or it could be some
type of extreme, heretofore unrecognized
type of societal vulnerability. The big
question was, given the pattern of
tornado fatalities we had seen in our past
research, was 2011 a complete surprise?
The answer to that question, Sutter said,
was no but with a caveat.
“The past patterns were telling us
that yes, given the length and strength
of those tornadoes that occurred, 100
fatalities in a single tornado wasn’t out of
the question,” he said. “The good part of
that is that last year was a really unusual
year in terms of the number of violent,
long-track tornadoes that occurred in
the U.S. There were six EF-5 tornadoes
last year. There had been two in the
U.S. as a whole during the 11 previous
years. In terms of whether it was societal
vulnerability or nature that led to the
outlier year, our conclusion is that it was
primarily due to nature. And, because
it was such an outlier year in terms of
tornadoes, we don’t think we will have to
worry about seeing a repeat of 2011 any
time soon unless nature happens to send
out another record year.”
Despite the lessons learned from the
2011 tornado season, Sutter said there
are still many questions to be answered,
perhaps the most puzzling of which is the
regional differences in tornado lethality.
“Tornadoes in the southeast are more
deadly than the rest of the country,
and we don’t have a good explanation
for that,” he said. “I think it is really
important that we try to understand why
that is before we begin undertaking a lot
of half-baked ideas just to do something.
A physician has to diagnose an illness
before offering treatment because without
a diagnosis the actions taken can do more
harm than good. So, that is a question
that my co-author and I, and hopefully
other researchers, may take a look at in
the future.”
Ellis is a university relations coordinator and
editor of the Troy University Magazine.
View more about Dr. Sutter’s
tornado research in a video segment
EconVersations w/ Dan Sutter episode
19 on TROY’s YouTube Page.