Tornadoes in perspective
The fear of tornadoes is a rational fear. After all, a tornado can wipe
out an entire town in just a few minutes. The power in a tornado is on the
order of the power of a nuclear weapon. However, tornadoes strike much less
often than popular imagination would have us to believe.
Many people wrongly assert that tornadoes are more common, due to global
warming. There are two problems with this theory.
- Our ability to detect tornadoes has greatly improved in the past few
years and a new technology will improve that even more in the next few
(it's 2011 as this is being written). Most tornadoes don't cause the
massive damage we read about or hear about. Or, sadly, get in the way
of. It's not a matter of more, so much as a matter of where. A tornado
that touches down in a densely packed metro area is going to be noticed!
- The global warming theory connects dots that don't necessarily
connect. Global temperatures are one thing, connecting them to man's
activity is another. The theory can't explain why Mars, which is 1.4 AU
from the sun (an AU is one earth-distance from the sun), is experiencing
polar ice melting from the sun's increased output while the earth
somehow is experiencing that from man's activity instead. A perverse
consequence of "Goremania" is it's diverting resources away from
conservation, waste reduction, and pollution control.
In any given year, there may be a spike in tornado activity. There may
even be a run of such spikes. But we don't have the data or other evidence
to show that earth is suddenly being over run by tornadoes as opposed to a
rather pacific environment before the dawn of the SUV. In fact, the most
deadly tornadoes on record occurred when our cities were far less dense than
they are today.
Just how deadly are tornadoes? In a typical year, they kill 60 people in
the USA. In some years, a single tornado event (as in Joplin, MO), can
greatly exceed this number. But on average, it's 60. Compare that to the
- 780,000 Americans die each year to due hospital mistakes.
- 450,000 Americans die each year as a consequence of tobacco use.
That's an estimate, and a conservative one.
- In 2008, 186 people were murdered in Washington, DC. In some years,
it's been well past 400. The reason for the high murder rates in this
particular city as opposed to others, is it has extremely strict
firearms restriction laws. When you restrict firearms to only the most
determined and desperate criminals, the outcome is predictable. And it's
So, should you fear tornadoes? Yes, to the extent you need to be aware of
tornado-producing conditions and take proper measures when they exist. But
you should be far, far more afraid of hospitals (practice health care, so
you can avoid medical care), tobacco, and criminal protection laws.
Just as we can't prevent government stupidity (yes, there are actually
other kinds of stupidity; they are just rare compared to the govt type), we
can't prevent tornadoes.
But we can prevent much of the devastation. In Florida, for example, the
building codes have resulted in homes and offices that are much safer in
high winds. While those codes are pointless for a building in the path of a
huge twister, they can make a difference for smaller vortices and for
secondary damage. Evidence also exists that berming and other topographical
anomalies can help divert tornadoes. The effect is probably not as great as
that of lightning rods to lightning; these don't prevent lighting, they just
help drain it off and away from the primary target.
The worst carnage occurs in mobile homes and mobile home parks. The
question to ask is, "Why do so many people live in these?" The answer is,
"It's the economy, stupid." The USA federal govt has saddled the country
with a debt that exceeds the GDP of the entire world by more than three
times over. Debts have carrying costs.
The high overhead costs of this vast, and mostly pointless, federal govt
have a profoundly negative effect on personal wealth. The more you look at
the waste, fraud, and illegality of most of the federal spending (something
like 90% of it is statutorily barred), the more you can see that there's a
simple fix to the trailer park problem. For more information how to bring
this about, see www.lp.org.
Hint: Refuse to vote Demopublican, and constantly lobby your
misrepresentatives in CONgress to reduce govt size and cost.
Overhead is a fundamental concept for any business or household. "Keep
your overhead down" is a well-respected, proven bit of advice to those who
wish to stay afloat financially. It's advice the federal government ignores.
At our peril, quite literally. What's the death toll from that? It's very,
We can't prevent tornadoes, but we can prevent the insane amount of
spending that is done mostly as a wealth transfer from the "peasant class"
to the elite who have members of CONgress on their payroll. There is a
reason why Exxon and other oil companies have had record profits recently,
and it's not because they have become so good at drilling for oil.
Tornadoes usually, but not always, strike in the middle of the afternoon.
But sometimes, they strike in the middle of the night. You have only a few
minutes, sometimes less, to get to a safer place.
Buy a weather radio and you'll get automated alerts. This small
expenditure can save your life.
- If you hear a sound like a train, it could be because you live near
the railroad tracks. Or it could be a twister bearing down on you.
- If there's a tornado watch, cancel any planned outings. Monitor the
- If there's a tornado warning, stay within earshot of your weather
radio. Monitor the weather by direct visual means.
Tornadoes don't develop over time and slowly make their way toward us.
They develop suddenly, and almost anywhere. One can develop in your own
backyard. During tornado conditions, stay alert and be looking for signs. Be
prepared to head to the basement. If conditions are especially prime, just
go to the basement and wait for conditions to pass. You may have zero
warning, and being there already can mean survival.
How can you be safe when a tornado hits?
- If you're in a car, don't try to outdrive the tornado. You will
probably die trying.
- If indoors, get away from windows. Move to the interior.
- If indoors, get into the lowest point of the building, e.g., the
- If outdoors, get to the lowest nearby place (e.g., a ditch) and lie
down. Flatten yourself out.
Can you do more? Nope. The power of a tornado is awesome and deadly.
Learn to respect it, rather than fear it. And take action now to reduce the
deleterious effects of bad government policies (things have gotten to the
point where bad is almost the only kind of policies we get).