Tornado Vulnerability Analysis of Schools in Alabama

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With 1,625 tornado reports and 551 fatalities, 2011 was a remarkably active year for tornadoes. During the Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, Al tornadoes several schools were destroyed. This has raised several concerns on policies regarding sheltering in place or early dismissal on days when tornadoes are expected. A vulnerability analysis of K-8 schools was performed by calculating the magnitude per unit area using Kernel Density Estimation (KDE). The area of each tornado path was used in order to find the locations of greatest risk. Tornado paths from 1973 to 2011 with Enhanced Fujita Scale ratings of 2 and above were analyzed. Maps were made to display KDE as well as to identify which school districts are most at risk based on past events. These were then used to calculate the possible number of schools and students impacted by these events. Preliminary results show that the largest tornado tracks by area are concentrated in the northern part of Alabama, which includes several major school districts, thus affecting a large population.

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Presented at the The Annual Meeting of The Association of American Geographers on April 10, 2014 in Tampa, FL