It has long been known that tornadoes pose more threat to life when they strike in poorer areas. But a new nationwide study of tornado casualty rates in the USA has revealed that the risk for the poor is even higher than previously thought.
The study was conducted by Tyler Fricker, a visiting assistant professor of geography at Texas A&M University, and published recently in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.
Using an analytical model Fricker combined tornado data with socio-economic, demographic and physical variables from the regions where the tornadoes struck to produce predictions for casualty rates. He then compared the predictions with the actual number of casualties that occurred during these events.
“Through these comparisons, you can start to understand which tornadoes cause many more casualties than we expect, which tornadoes cause roughly the same number of causalities we would expect, and which tornadoes did not have as many causalities as we would expect,” Fricker told Science Daily.
The study found that regions of the country already prone to high casualty events such as the Southeast in reality had even higher casualty rates than the model predicted.
Since his model already took in to account mobile home ownership and low income – factors commonly associated with higher casualty rates – Fricker says that there are likely other variables impacting the casualties that are yet to be understood.
In a bid to uncover what these are he is hoping to expand the project to include interviews with the affected communities.