An important record has been eclipsed, and continues to be each day until our fortune runs out. We passed the record number of days in the United States last week where there have been no tornado related deaths. After a near record low number of actual tornadoes, this shouldn't be a big surprise, but we have as of January 17, 2012, gone 207 days without a tornado-related fatality. The last fatality from a tornado was June 24, 2012, according to statistics compiled by the National Severe Storms Laboratory and blogged about by ClimateCentral.org's Andrew Freedman. What I would hope to be able to say is that it is a combination of fewer tornadoes and more people taking protective action, but of that I am not convinced.
According to an article posted last year the Capital Journal, a Topeka, KS, newspaper, social science researcher Laura Myers, PhD, is hoping that stronger wording in National Weather Service warnings should make more people move out of harm's way when warnings are issued. That program, called Impact Based Warning is also being joined this year with the Mid-South Warning Team Project, which has similar goals. The latter project includes two new types of warnings, using the term PDS (Particularly Dangerous Situation) coined by the Storm Prediction Center when they issue "PDS Tornado Watches".
Further using the term to elevate the threats of specific tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, the latter project looks to make available to forecasters in certain NWS test offices (Memphis, Jackson, Birmingham and Huntsville), PDS Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, for when the wind will likely exceed 80mph or the storm may carry dangerously large hail, and PDS Tornado Warnings, for when a large and possibly deadly tornado is known to be on the ground, also referred to as a "Tornado Emergency".
With these projects happening in 2013, and with social science researchers like Dr. Myers, Dr. Eve Gruntfest, and many others studying the public's responses to dangerous weather, I hope that as we learn what is most effective to get people to act when they face a dangerous weather threat, and that we can also influence them to reach out to others, who are often completely unaware of threats about to occur.
Meteorologist/National Notification Consultant, Media/Industry/Web, WeatherCall
Adjunct Instructor of Emergency Public Information / Meteorolgy, FEMA Emergency Management Institute