Lessons from Joplin — Warning Sirens Ignored
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX)– A National Weather Service review of this spring’s deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo. finds some new, attention-grabbing weather warning is needed to get people to take shelter when their life depends on it.
The survey of about 100 survivors found that many had heard the warning siren before the powerful tornado struck, but they failed to take shelter in time, according to meteorologist Dick Wagenmaker with the National Weather Service.
“In essence, familiarity with the springtime severe weather in Joplin and the perception, and I’ll emphasize the perception, that sirens go off too often reflect that many have become de-sensitized to warnings and several people that we interviewed even so much as admitted that,” Wagenmaker said.
The April 22 tornado that struck Joplin killed 159 and left over 1,000 injured. The study found that the weather service issued advanced warning, but many peopled failed to heed the warning.
“A tornado watch was issued four hours in advance,” Wagenmaker said, “A tornado warning was issued 17 minutes prior to the initial touchdown and over 20 minutes prior to the tornado moving into the western parts of the city.”
The study blamed the high death toll, in part, on increased urbanization with denser populations posing a greater potential for death when towns take a direct hit.
Wagenmaker says the weather service is considering some type of “non routine mechanism” that will prompt people to take immediate action in strong to violent tornadoes.
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