U.S. tornado aftermath: "It could have been a lot worse."

U.S. tornado aftermath: "It could have been a lot worse."

Woodward : OK : USA | Apr 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM PDT
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Oklahoma tornado - April 14, 2012

The National Weather Service has lifted the severe weather and tornado watches in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois. The threats of tornadoes and thunderstorms have diminished. Strong thunderstorms remained a possibility during the early morning hours, the service said in ABC news reports.

The weather service's Storm Prediction Center received 10 reports of tornadoes on Sunday -- the last a reported touchdown in McLeod County in Minnesota -- and 122 reports of tornadoes on Saturday.

Early warning systems were credited with saving lives, which under the conditions could have been worse.

Advisories from the system were issued two days in advance, rather than just a matter of hours, and were "remarkably accurate," said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. "People took it very seriously."

Woodward, Oklahoma took a direct hit with 89 homes and 13 businesses destroyed when the storm disabled the transmitter for tornado warnings siren system. "We lost our manual override" when the electricity was knocked out, City Manager Alan Riffel said.

Given that and timing of the tornado -- after midnight, and after other severe weather had barreled through -- Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said the human cost could have been even worse.

"It's remarkable that we didn't have more loss of life in Woodward," she told reporters late Sunday afternoon.

Fallin has declared a state of disaster emergency in 12 counties in order to help expedite resources.

In southwest Iowa, residents of Thurman began returning Sunday to dig through debris after a tornado struck Saturday.

"About 75% of the homes are damaged or destroyed," said Mike Crecelius, Fremont County's emergency management director.

One of the biggest cities hit over the weekend was Wichita, Kansas, where resident Katie Sykes said torrential rains produced a "river in my front yard" and the prospect of a tornado had her shuddering in fear.

"When I was little we prepared for storms, hearing the sirens and then going to the basement. And going through this experience I felt like a little kid, young and scared," Sykes said.

North Carolina remembers that one year ago today, deadly tornadoes ripped through Sanford, Fayetteville, and the Triangle. In Cumberland County, residents paused Monday to remember April 16, 2011 when one person was killed by a tornado's path of destruction.

Worse tornado seasons

2011 was one of the worse seasons for tornadoes, but not the worse. The F-5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri leaving 130 dead and the 500 people killed by more than 1,200 tornadoes recorded by the end of May 2011, was not the worse year. In 2008 there were 1,808 tornadoes and was one of the most destructive years.

“Furthermore, data published by the National Atlas indicates that the impact and severity of tornadoes have been decreasing since 1950. The current developments might be just a spike in a downward trend. Yet, it should also be said that the number of recorded tornadoes has increased over the same period, from 200 to over 1000. The reason for this increase is not very clear. It might be a sign of changing global climate patterns, or the consequence of better tornado tracking technologies and reporting techniques. In other words, it is possible that we have more tornadoes today because we are looking for them with better glasses,” according to matei.org.

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Tornado casualties from 1950-2007.
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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