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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published June 16 2012

Weather Talk: 2011 exception in decline of deadly tornado years

The year 2011 was a horrible one for tornado deaths in the United States.

There were 553 American tornado deaths in 2011, due largely to the April 25-28 super outbreak in which 325 people were killed, many of them in Alabama, followed by the Joplin tornado a month later that killed 156. This ranks the year behind only 1925 and its 794 deaths.

The remaining years with more than 500 tornado deaths were all a long time ago: 1936 (552), 1917 (551), 1927 (540) and 1896 (537). Of course, further back into history, there may have been worse tornado seasons, but there would have been fewer people in the way of the storms.

With the exception of last year, there has been a tremendous decline in tornado deaths in the United States since the 1950s, from near 200 per year to fewer than 80 per year, due to much better public awareness, improved media communication and the National Weather Service warning system.

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