The Tornado Is Gone: Now What?

The past few months have seen record tornado activity in the U.S>  Through June 16, 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service has tallied a preliminary count of eyewitness reports of nearly 1,500 tornado events.  56 of these were “killer tornadoes” resulting in almost 550 deaths.  In April alone, there were 875 reports of tornadoes, including 44 killer tornadoes resulting in 361 deaths.  (

According to the following NOAA map, few states have been spared from tornadoes this year.

It should come as no surprise that, in the aftermath of a tornado, communities like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri, two of the hardest-hit communities in April, have daunting tasks ahead of them.  As described in the May 26, 2011, USA Today article “Rebuilding Will Take Years, Millions – and Patience” (, and as Pie has seen firsthand in Alabama and Missouri (where Pie has had engineers and architects evaluating tornado damage and helping building and home owners start the reconstruction process), a community’s resilience and can-do attitude easily outmatches the strength and fury of even the most destructive tornado.

{Image copyright Pie Forensic Consultants}
Tractor-trailer wrapped around tree in Joplin, MO.

For example, just three weeks after a category EF-4 tornado tore through downtown Cullman, Alabama, the city’s 8,000 residents are going about their daily lives without looking back.  In fact, if it weren’t for the damage seen in every direction, you wouldn’t know that the residents had just survived a tornado with estimated peak winds of 170 mph and a 54-mile long, nearly 1-mile wide damage path.

As the USA Today article describes, a community can ultimately recover and even become a “stronger and healthier” place.  This is dependent on things like getting basic services running again as soon as possible and the effort from local community itself (including its own resources as well as how much assistance it gets from state and federal government and other funding sources), and may take years to accomplish.  At the outset, residents, businesses, and design professionals are critical to determining  the community’s economic and social needs.

In Cullman, this process is already well underway.  The residents already seem to be turning their recent catastrophe into an opportunity to establish a  new and improved standard in their community.  Only time will tell how things work out, but Cullman is definitely starting off on the right foot.

(Note: Use of the NOAA and National Weather Service names and visual identifiers does not imply an endorsement or affiliation with NOAA/NWS.  The NOAA/NWS material incorporated above is not subject to copyright protection.)

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