This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Tornado Fatality Rates: Variables associated with the increased lethality of cyclonic tornadic activity within the Southeastern United States.




Johnston, Zachary

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work


This thesis examines and attempts to correlate several potential variables to explain the higher than average death rate due to tornados in the Southeastern United States. The in-depth analysis of variables concentrates on two specific areas. First, tornados that occur while the majority of a population is asleep, defined in the context of this paper as nocturnal tornados. The second variable will be tornados that occur outside of the traditional tornado season in the United States. This paper also examines additional variables and how these factors, in combination with the nocturnal and out of season characteristics of tornados in the Southeast, could contribute to the high death toll. The data used in this thesis will consist of data from the Storm Prediction Center Severe Weather GIS (SVRGIS) which accounts for tornados in the continental United States from the year 1950 to 2014. This study finds that while a nocturnal occurrence of a tornado (0000-0700) is not more likely to produce a fatality in the Southeast, those tornados that do produce a fatality are more likely to produce multiple fatalities. Results from this study indicate support for the expansion of the period of high risk for tornados or “tornado season” to include the month of November, and also highlight the increased likelihood of fatal tornados year round in the Southeast.