Tuscaloosa Alabama tornado event in the U.S.
Tuscaloosa Alabama tornado event
The Tuscaloosa tornado is one of the biggest tornadoes that have ever hit the Alabama area and caused destruction to the extent it did. The paper looks at the finer details of the destructive nature of the tornado and the response that the rescue and recovery team put forth. There is as well an analysis of the extent of the preparedness of the Alabama people and the local government incase such a thing happens again or even a disaster of a bigger magnitude would occur.
Natural disasters are mostly unforeseen and when they strike the results are fatal accompanied by massive destruction of property and infrastructure. Though there could be warning systems, the populace is rarely adequately prepared for the effects or the magnitude of any natural disaster and this was the case with Alabama when Tornado struck on April 25-28, 2011 bringing massive destruction.
Morbidity and mortality of the Tuscaloosa tornado
The tornado tore through six states destroying property and bringing death in its wake. National Geographic News (2011) indicates that the Tornado was of F5 storm in the Fujita Scale with winds speeds in excess of 260 miles per hour. It is categorized as a queer kind of tornado since it sustained its strength for abnormally long distance, estimated to over 300 miles, which is not normal for tornadoes.
The Tuscaloosa twister swept through six states namely Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia as well as Tennessee killing 338 people as documented by CDC (2012). It was categorized as the third deadliest tornado in the American History, this happening with the advanced warning systems available as well as the advanced tornado detection systems and the wide media coverage. CDC pegs this high toll of deaths to the age of the people who were victims of the tornado which was on average 55 years and that made it difficult for them to move out of the way of the storm in good time. There were also 26.6% of the 338 dead people who were in mobile homes hence giving them little protection. 89.5% of the dead people were reported to be from F4 to F5 tornado during this event, an indication that a majority of the people never stayed off the path of the tornado.
Among all the six states affected by the tornado, it was Alabama that suffered the biggest brunt of the disaster. Vital infrastructure f Tuscaloosa were destroyed, more than 7,000 buildings damaged in Alabama, 10% of the local business in Tuscaloosa were grounded which is around 650 of the 6,200 businesses within the city. These businesses employed 7,200 people within the city and that means an annual payroll of $270 million will not be realized (Larry Copeland, 2011).
Local, State, and Federal Response
The response of the local government, the state agencies and the federal agencies response to the tornado was generally impressive. It noted that the lessons learnt from the Katrina tragedy and the BR oil spill left lasting impressions on the operation systems of the various government agencies. The president arrived barely 40 hours after the tragedy which was a record time as compared to his 12-hour delay before responding to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One day after the disaster (actually Thursday evening) the president had already signed disaster declaration and FEMA had set up liaison officers in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee by Friday to expedite the response (the New York Times, 2011).
According to the Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama (2012), Governor Robert Bentley reacted very fast to the disaster and appointed a 19 member tem known as the Tornado Recovery Action Council that helped in the rescue and recovery efforts. It is also noted within this same report that the Alabama Power reacted very promptly to the power outage by installing 6,000 distribution poles and placing well over 4 million feet of wire within the first seven days after the disaster.
Challenges and Public Health Issues
There were a few challenges that were experienced before, during and after the disaster that should be worked on in order to further lessen the human suffering during disasters. One of the most outstanding challenge that Alabama in general experienced was the issue of communication. It was noted that the lack of a common frequency that could be used by the response teams to coordinate the efforts was a hindrance to the rescue efforts. Logistics of moving donated items from one place to anther was yet another issue. This was made worse by the fact that most of the social venues that could be used for such distribution were destroyed. It was also noted by the recovery action council that there was lack of adequate knowledge on disaster preparedness and the available resources in the event of such a disaster. After the disaster, the cleaning up process and garbage collection took too long and as long as three months down the lie there were still debris littered along some streets. The debris was a cause of concern on the health of people of Tuscaloosa since they harbored dirt and was a chance for outbreak of diseases.
There is dire need for a statewide interoperable communication system among the rescue agencies that can be activated in the event of an emergency. There is also need for an integrated severe weather alert system that covers the entire state. These systems should give room to individuals to enroll for the alerts via their phones and incorporate the smartphone technology to help in quick and efficient dissemination of information. There is also need to have conspicuous digital billboards across all major highways that would warn people incase there is an approaching tornado so that drivers are warned of the same. There is need to install more sirens particularly in the rural areas where people are sparsely settled and the few that are there are not enough to be hear across the vast fields. There is also need for people living in tornado prone areas like in Tuscaloosa to build safe houses that would help them during tornadoes. There are many families whose lives and those of their neighbors were saved by these safe houses that they had built as a precaution.
The quick response to the tornado in Alabama was a brilliant idea as it saved many lives from suffering the aftermaths of the tornado. There is need to carry on with the positives that were seen during the tornado and to institute further measures that would ensure further safety of the people affected by the natural disasters.
CDC (2012). Tornado-Related Fatalities — Five States, Southeastern United States, April 25 — 28, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6128a3.htm
Larry Copeland, (2011). Rebuilding will take years, millions — and patience. USA Today. Retrieved October 16, 2012 from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-05-25-joplin-tuscaloosa-rebuild_n.htm
National Geographic News, (2011). Monster Alabama Tornado Spawned by Rare “Perfect Storm.” http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110428-tuscaloosa-birmingham-alabama-news-tornadoes-science-nation/
The New York Times, (2011). Government’s Disaster Response Wins Praise. Retrieved October 16, 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/us/01fema.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama, (2012). Cultivating a state of readiness: Our Response to April 27, 2011. Retrieved October 16, 2012 from http://ema.alabama.gov/filelibrary/TRAC_Report.pdf
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