The Political Ecology of Disaster: An Analysis of Factors Influencing U.S. Tornado Fatalities and Injuries, 1998-2000

Donner, William R.
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Disaster Research Center
This study examines the causes of tornado fatalities and injuries in the United States between the years 1998-2000. A political model of human ecology (POET) was used to explore how the environment, technology, and social inequality influence rates of fatalities and injuries in two models. Data were drawn from four sources: John Hart's Severe Plot v2.0, National Weather Service (NWS) Warning Verification data, Storm Prediction Center (SPC) watch data, and tract-level Census data. Negative binomial regression was used to analyze the causes of tornado fatalities and injuries. Independent variables (following POET) are classified in the following manner: population, organization, environment, and technology. Tornado area represents environment; tornado watches and warnings, as well as mobile homes, correspond to technology; rural population, population density, and household size operationalize population; and racial minorities and deprivation represent social organization. Findings suggest a strong relationship between the size of a tornado path and both fatalities and injuries, whereas other measures related to technology, population, and organization produce significant yet mixed results. Census tracts with larger populations of rural residents was, of the non-environmental factors, the most conclusive regarding its effects across the two models. The outcomes of analysis, while not entirely supportive of the model presented in this paper, suggest to some degree that demographic and social factors play a role in vulnerability to tornadoes.
Tornadoes-Case Studies , Fatalities , Social Factors , Ethnic and Minority Aspects