CASE STUDY SUMMARY_Fennel

On May 22, 2011 an EF5 tornado made direct contact with the City of Joplin and the surrounding Jasper County in Missouri. I chose to study this event as it was significant in bringing about swift reforms to hazard mitigation and preparation. The response to this event was similar to that of Katrina from a hurricane. Differences between the two events are primarily in duration, intensity, and area of destruction. This was something I was unable to report on in my case study but found very interesting.

Prior to 2011, the citizens of Joplin were wildly unprepared for any tornados to occur. Before 2011, the last EF5 tornado recorded in Missouri was in 1957 (F5 Raskin Heights) and a distant memory that did not bring about any changes to mitigation for tornados. Furthermore, perceived notions that tornados would not make direct contact with Joplin were aided by the statistic that hundreds of EF2 or lower tornados had hit the surrounding area without impacting Joplin. Only 1 EF2 or greater tornado was recorded in Joplin in the 50 years prior to the May 22, 2011 EF5. When the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center issued severe thunderstorm warnings in the days prior to May 22 no preparations were made and no building codes had been changed since 1988. Additionally, public perception of the dangers from tornados was greatly reduced due to assumptions of false alarms via the tornado siren system. This system was used once a year and went off twice in 3 minute intervals prior to the tornado entering Joplin at 5:11 P.M. CDT. This resulted in no immediate preparation and initial cues to leave the area and evacuate came from word of mouth rather than officials. NIST findings on the Joplin tornado found that no community shelters, safe rooms, or tornado-resistant buildings had been constructed in Joplin and Jasper County leaving the population of just over 20,000 highly vulnerable to the hazards present from the tornado.

LP DAAC - A View from Above: The Aftermath of a Tornado

Above is a photo of the destruction in Joplin a day after the tornado hit. Further findings in the NIST study found that 96% of the 161 deaths resulted from blunt force trauma and  from windspeed associated with EF3 or below tornados. This is significant because it does not reflect that the damage was caused by the labeled EF5 that the tornado reached. Below is a photo of the destruction path with associated windspeed for a better visual of the tornados progress from an EF2 to an EF5 as it progressed through Joplin.

The result of this direct path by an EF5 tornado had dire consequences for a population unprepared for such an event. Critical care facilities, first responders, and communications were all impacted in a way that slowed recovery in the immediate aftermath. Most importantly, the hospital in Joplin suffered damages that resulted in the death of 3 individuals in the ICU. Critical care facilities as well as public buildings such as schools did not have shelters or adequate codes to prevent the damages from the tornado.

The recovery of Joplin was due to a hands off approach by officials and the government as the public and private sector took over rebuilding and clearing Joplin. Funding from the federal government and thousands of volunteers lead to a robust recovery that could be observed as similar to that of the involvement in the private sector after Katrina. A statistic that I found amazing was the involvement of a recorded 92,000 registered volunteers by November of 2011 that contributed over 500,000 hours of community service. Other notable contributions included donations from organizations such as the Red Cross and actors such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt whoo donated $500,000. Schools and critical care facilities were reopened within months and entered 2012 with new codes that improved design and safety. After clearing 1.5 million cubic feet of debris, the public began to rebuild with the newfound knowledge to place storm shelters in their homes. Overall, the lessons learned from the May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado provided can example to the Mid West to increase readiness for storms by improving systems that were in place or by enacting them.

South African Storms Update

The last mention of the storm system in South Africa noted a couple dozen deaths. At the time of writing, new reports claim over 250 deaths due to flooding from an incredible 2 feet of rain across portions of South Africa. Rain has spanned from Saturday to this past Tuesday as heavy rainfalls has inflicted mass erosion, landslides, and widespread flooding leaving many homeless and stranded. Officials in the impacted areas have stated that over 6,000 buildings and shacks have been destroyed indicating heavy infrastructure damage from dwellings that were not equipped to deal with the level of rain seen. As the rain has subsided, officials have urged residents of low lying areas to seek higher elevation as water levels from rivers are expected to swell and continue to rise over the next few days. More importantly, critical infrastructure such as cell towers and medical centers have been damaged causing recovery issues that will certainly lead to further complications over the next few weeks as recovery efforts continue. The significance of this event is substantial considering this is the deadliest storm in South African history. Global warming and the subsequent appearance of higher magnitude storms at an increased frequency pose an imminent threat to those that are unprepared and indicate the need to adjust preparation parameters for such events in the future.

South Africa floods: deadliest storm on record kills over 250 people | South Africa | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/13/south-africa-floods-deadliest-storm-on-record-kills-over-250-people

link: https://www.accuweather.com/en/severe-weather/more-than-250-killed-as-flooding-inflicts-untold-havoc-in-south-africa/1172275

 

Severe Storms Strike the South

As of others have mentioned in the past few days, severe storms have battered the South. According to an article in the New York Times 5 tornadoes were recorded in Mississippi and at least 1 in South Carolina. As the United States enters tornado season (can occur at any time) residents of Southern states in the U.S. may be ill prepared for such events. Often time on the East Coast the thought of a tornado occurring and being a threat is highly disregarded. Additionally many in states such as Mississippi may not have the funds to prepare for such an event. The cost of retrofitting homes with shelters and safe rooms may seem like a burden that is outweighed by the perceived risk. Regardless, no deaths were recorded from these incidents. Sadly, a man in Texas lost his life when a tree fell on his home and killed him. The widespread enhanced threat of severe weather issued by the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center covered Southern South Carolina to the Panhandle of Florida. As storms strengthen with global climate change it is imperative that critical infrastructure such as hospitals are outfitted to withstand and deal with these cases of severe weather.

Attached below is a clip posted to TikTok from South Eastern Georgia that has amassed almost 24 million views at the time of this post:

@royal_tv_

got a little windy today on the south east coast

♬ Sent er too hard bud zacklegato3 – Zack Legato

Article link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/05/us/severe-weather-forecast-south.html

Central Iowa Storms

Multiple tornados ravaged central Iowa on Saturday March 6, 2022. Seven fatalities were recorded in addition to a dozen injuries across the impacted area. Six out of the seven fatalities came from the tornado that formed out of Winterset in Madison County. It was measured as an EF-3 tornado with peak winds of 138mph that ravaged a neighborhood and killed 4 members of a family and 2 neighbors down the street. The other fatality was recorded by another tornado about an hour later. These tornados were the deadliest in Iowa since May of 2008 where 9 were killed.

Something in particular about this story is that the 4 that died (in the one house out of Winterset) were not from the area and were visiting their Grandmother. The Grandmother’s house was almost completely destroyed with the exception of a pantry. If the house had been better reinforced or retrofitted with an underground shelter, the family would have had a better chance at survival. Additionally, the neighbors that were killed down the street are a sign that houses in the neighborhood that remain must be retrofitted and upgraded to withstand future storms.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/mar/07/iowa-tornado-victims-family-winterset

Historic Flooding In Australia

Torrential downpours of historic proportions have swept across the continent’s coast as towns and cities such as Brisbane recorded 80% of their annual rainfall over just 3 days. Beginning on February 22, 2022 the Queensland coast of Australia received 26.6″ of rain over the first 3 days of the storm system that comes in the tail end of their La Niña weather pattern. The La Niña weather consists of colder and wetter months between October and April for the Northern and Eastern portions of the country. Despite the predicted increase in rainfall, the country expected the conditions to decline through the month into March. Current damage to areas impacted by the rainfall are experiencing widespread flooding that have submerged entire houses and left residents in shock. Additionally, there have been 10 fatalities reported. The flooding from higher intensity storms indicate global clime change has an ever increasing presence in determining the severity of storms and the subsequent consequences of these events. Those that are prepared for flooding and have experienced it in the past will have to adjust their parameters in safety and knowledge as the destructive potential of flooding on the Australian coast has just been raised.

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/01/australia-new-south-wales-queensland-floods/

Snow postpones Winter Olympic events

The Winter Olympics in Beijing have postponed two events and other scheduled trainings due to snow. In an event such as the Winter Olympics one might assume that snow would be the last thing to cause cancellations to events. This was not the case as Slopestyle snowboarding events and training runs were rescheduled due to real snow on the courses. Shovels and leaf blowers were used to remove the real snow that lay on top of the artificial snow. Other events such as the 4x10km relay (cross-country skiing) saw 20 minute time increases over the last winning time in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. In addition to the courses, other changes were present in the region including chains on the tires of buses shuttling spectators. It’s fascinating to see how snow significantly impacts the events of a program designed around winter weather sports.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/12/sports/olympics/beijing-games-snow.html

Snownado in Greece

What do you get when snowfall and a water sprout combine? A snownado! On January 24, 2022 Athens and some of the Greek Islands were blanketed in snowfall accompanied by a waterspout that made landfall 60 miles east of Athens. This waterspout carried snow into the air creating what is now called a snownado. Additionally this winter storm has been named “Elpida” which translates to “hope.” Similar to the snowfall in Virginia, the crews and people affected by the storm were ill prepared for such an event to occur. Weather in Athens during January is at its coldest but still maintains an average temperature around 55°F (13°c).  Despite normal temperatures being significantly over freezing, the conditions that gave birth to Elpida are a result of cold air from Northern Europe that accumulated over the Mediterranean Sea that extracted moisture and caused instability in the atmosphere.

Snownado: https://twitter.com/meteogr/status/1485553738530148357?s=20

Article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2022/01/24/athens-istanbul-thunder-snow/