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Natural hazard refers to catastrophic events or phenomenon of atmospheric, geological, and hydrological origins that can cause fatalities, property damage, social environmental disruption and can indirectly cause social grievances and resource scarcities. These includes earthquake, tornadoes, Volcanic eruption, tsunamis, floods, typhoons and thunderstorms, hurricanes epidemics etc. It usually occurs randomly i. e. is probabilistic and its output is usually given considering both direct and indirect effects it causes.
A tornadoes are violent columns of rotating air with a speed of more than 200miles per hour that extend from thunderstorms to ground bound to happen anywhere and anytime with huge energies that can destroy structures, flip vehicles and create deadly flying debris resulting to a devastating effects on the physical and human geography as witnessed in Oklahoma in 1999.
This hazard formation occurs in the sequence: Super cells or large thunderstorm occurs in a cumulonimbus cloud. A change in wind direction and wind speed at high altitudes causes the air to swirl horizontally. The rising air from the ground pushes up on the swirling air and tips it over forming a funnel of swirling air which begins to suck up more warm air from the ground which later grows longer and stretches toward the ground to inform of very strong wind which is referred as tornado. It’s bound to occur anywhere and anytime but more prevalent in temperate zone and in afternoons when thunderstorms are more prevalent.
The Oklahoma was worse hit by Tornado disaster in 6:23pm (Central daylight time), 3, May 1999. This tornado registered F-5 strength on Fujista Tornado scale occurring for close to 1 hour and38 minutes stretching 38 miles path from Chickasha through south Oklahoma City and the suburbs of Bridge Creek, Newcastle, Moore, Midwest City and Del City.
Having started as low range tornado this disaster later intensified spreading to other areas mainly affecting counties of Texas with Oklahoma. At first meteorologist had observed that atmosphere was unstable and wind changes relied by special weather balloon indicated high possibility of tornado development which lead declaration of the possibility as high risk by Storm prediction center (SPC) by 4pm (Central daylight Time) on May 3. This lead to widespread awareness creation through television, Direct telephone calls, sirens, AM/FM radio and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio which showed that the civil society was aware though many feared that evacuation could lead to more devastating effects due to short timing while other escaped via various modes such as vehicles to safer areas. However timely warming for preparedness and special programs should recognize that long tornado warning lead times and street-level television coverage to allow residents to make informed decisions to reduce risk by possibly sheltering or moving away from the tornado path.
The first storms hit North West Texas and South West of Oklahoma before spreading North East of to Oklahoma City and Tusla. 15 minute later from time of warning a quarter sized hail hit Lawton having some warning of severe thunderstorms from Comanche county. At 4:47 pm, the first Tornado Warning of the day was issued for Comanche and Grady with first warning being issued from meteorological station e office in Norman suggesting possibility of Oklahoma metro area being hit by F5 tornado that would produced 14 tornadoes over a 3. 5 hours’ time frame with 5 of them being either strong of violent; rated F2 or higher and would first strike Amber. Striking the Amber area, it moved to the far northern portion of Newcastle, through southern sections of Oklahoma city, into the northern portions of Moore and then through Oklahoma again before moving on to Del City and Midwest City. The National Weather Service Office in Norman issued a Tornado Emergency – the first warning of its kind. Meteorologists wanted to make sure that it was something different than what people were used to with a large and violent tornado on the ground headed to a largely populated area.
This resulted to 36 fatalities a direct after match counts, 800 injuries with 8000 home destroyed or damaged and property worth $1 billion was estimated to have been destroyed. Owing to other losses and indirect effects of tornado other 4 fatalities were reported with estimated damage tolling to $1. 5 billion. The estimated damages ranged from destruction of private homes, schools and churches while no noticeable effects on physical geography except for authenticity loss due to degradation as a result of destruction and debris from building and bridges.
Following this disaster, Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) and local Oklahoma government launched a program to encourage construction of safe rooms. These included combination of private homes and public facilities that were design, tested and approved as safe point for helter against tornados. An estimated cost of $57 million have so far been used by the state government and FEMA to construct 11, 386 private safe rooms and 382 public facilities in bid to fight tame more causalities during these disasters. A more crack down on inspection of substandard homestead followed as it was believed that technical and engineering flaws might have contributed to widespread destruction which would cost over $ 1. 5 billion to reconstruct.
1999 Oklahoma tornado disaster can be seen as one of the most deadliest natural hazard in history of tornados in USA resulting widespread mortality and morbidity rate. However, the meteorological data and weatherman had issued several warning with most people making it to secure ground while other opting to seek refuge in there homestead. Most direct fatalities resulted injuries by debris while indirect fatalities resulted to heart attacks and severe injuries during the incident. However, lot of emergency and tornado impact reduction measures have been put in place such like safe house construction and building inspections by both state and federal government in bid to curb causalities resulting from tornadoes.
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