Research has not examined property damage from tornadoes as extensively as casualties. Several factors are likely in play here. First, the destructive power of tornadoes poses such a threat to life and limb that it is only natural for the main focus to be on casualties. In addition, with winds that can exceed 200 miles per hour and the added force of tornado suction vortices, property damage is seemingly impossible to avoid when a tornado hits. Although a part of a home could be hardened into a safe room capable of surviving an F5 tornado, the construction of homes that are impervious to tornado damage is cost-prohibitive, and building codes do not include wind-load designs for tornadoes. The NWS has instead directed its efforts toward watches and warnings that can potentially save lives. Furthermore, tornadoes simply do not pose the potential for catastrophic losses that affect the functioning of insurance markets and raise homeowners’ insurance rates. Tornado events resulting in insured losses in excess of $1 billion (which can include several tornadoes in a large outbreak) are becoming more frequent, but the potential for a $50 billion or $100 billion loss seemingly does not exist. And finally, the available data on property losses suffer from some limitations, which limits the ability of researchers to discern patterns in the losses.
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- Property Damage and Community Impacts of Tornadoes
Kevin M. Simmons
- American Meteorological Society