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Volume 27, Issue 3

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Deadliest Tornado Season in 50 years

Written by  MIKE SMITH July 11, 2011

Tornado season 2011 is the worst since 1953. And, like 1953, major tornadoes occurred well outside of “Tornado Alley.” Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Alabama were all hard-hit this year. We saw the worst loss of life in a single tornado (Joplin, Mo.) in more than half a century. Nationwide, the tally has grown beyond 520 deaths.As a meteorologist specializing in the mitigation of the effects of extreme weather and the author of a book that tells the story of how weather scientists struggled to create today’s life-saving storm warning system (Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather, Greenleaf, 2010), I’m asked, over and over, “How could this loss of life have happened?” What makes this doubly perplexing, is the warnings of these storms were accurate and timely.What went wrong? And, what can we learn and improve going forward?While government survey teams are investigating the worst of these

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