Friday, May 12, 2017

Report: Tornado Deaths, Destruction To Greatly Increase In Coming Decades

A tornado carved a deadly path through Washington,
Illinois in November, 2013. As cities and towns
grow and expand, they become bigger targets
for tornadoes, so scenes like this might become more
common in coming decades. 
We're in the heart of tornado season in the United States now.

There was a handful of tornadoes in Oklahoma Thursday, but no deaths or serious injuries was reported, and damage was relatively muted.  

We've got several chances of more tornadoes in the coming week as several weather systems seem likely to touch off some bad weather in the middle of the country.

This has been kind of a bad, destructive and deadly tornado year and a report in USA Today gives us a scary glimpse into the future:

The number of deaths and damage from tornadoes could triple by the end of this century.

This isn't a story about global warming. (Usually, when there's a dire warning like this, it involves climate change. Not this time.)

Instead, the problem is development.

Cities and suburbs keep sprawling outward and coverning more land. The more land covered by houses and developments, the bigger the target for tornadoes.

Instead of harmlessly churning across open fields, the growing size of towns and cities make them bigger targets for tornadoes to chew up.

The student was done by Villanova University's Department of Geography and the Environment.

"Disasters are are socially constructed....We're building ourselves into disasters," said Stephen Strader, the study's lead author, according to USA Today.

This potentially deadly trend is most likely in the Midwest and Southeast, where tornadoes are most prevalent and cities are sprawling. Places like metropolitian Dallas, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Atlanta are big targets, for instance.

In terms of global warming, the jury is still out on whether climate change will make tornadoes more frequent or worse. The tornado season might become longer, since warmer air earlier in the spring could contribute to weather patterns that encourage twisters.

But the biggest problem is development. People in tornado prone areas ought to consider building storm shelters if they don't already have them. Or at least bolster the structural integrity of the houses they live in.

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