Natural disasters may be as common in the United States as they are in other countries. But the frequency and intensity of devastation in lands a world away can lull Americans into thinking such tragedies will never happen to them — until one does happen.
They were still looking for bodies Monday from a weekend tornado that left at least 90 people dead in Joplin, Mo. That killer storm came within weeks of tornadoes in April that killed more than 230 people in Alabama.
Such numbers have public officials questioning whether current early-warning systems are sufficient.
The death toll from tornadoes has dropped from about 8 per million U.S. residents in 1925 to less than one person per million today. But when hundreds of people can be killed by a storm in a single day, you have to ask what more can be done to save lives.
A record-breaking 600 tornadoes swept across the United States in April. Meteorologists are blaming unusual dips in the jet stream for the power of the storms that left so much death and destruction in their wake.
Power outages in Alabama may have prevented many people from seeing or hearing storm warnings broadcast on TV and radio. In the Midwest, there is concern that some people are so accustomed to hearing tornado sirens that they don’t react quickly.
Weather forecasting today is much more precise. But if more steps are needed to get lifesaving information to people, take them.