Extreme weather continues to batter United States

Thursday 26th May 2011 by theWeather Club

The confirmed death toll from theEF-5 rated tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri on Sunday evening has risen to 125, making this the eighth most deadly tornado in US history. Search teams continue to scour the devastated town, with hundreds of people still listed as missing. The tornado damaged at estimated 8,000 structures in the town, turning it into rubble.

Further tornadoes have continued to hit the surrounding states, with a further 13 confirmed deaths in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas as the storm system moved eastwards.

In Arkansas, the National Weather Service reported a tornado causing extensive damage in the town of Denning, while in Newcastle, south of Oklahoma City, a storm blew the steeple off the Jesus Alive Church, causing it to land 90m away on the doorstep of the pastor's 86-year-old mother, Lovina Frizzell. "I said 'Oh, my goodness, there's the steeple,'" Frizzell told Reuters

About 10,000 people spent Tuesday night sleeping at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport where golfball-sized hail was reported, according to airport spokesperson Sarah McDaniel.

Meanwhile, questions are being asked about the timing and substance of tornado warnings. "We need to ask ourselves, what can we do to protect Americans? I have to say, it's not enough. We have to do more," said Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service.

Storm sirens sounded more than 20 minutes before the tornado hit Joplin, which gave residents more time to react tham the average 13 or 14 minute warning time. But forecasters are worried that people in tornado-prone areas of the USA are becoming inured to the warnings or are failing to pick them up in time. The problem that the weather service has to grapple with is that the longer the warning time, the less accurate the prediction, and a series of inaccurate long-lead warnings would be likely to have a 'crying wolf' effect, leading to a reduction in public confidence in the warnings. The authorities are now looking into ways of ensuring that warnings are delivered in the most efficient way possible, with initiatives in place to look at the potential of smartphone technology.