Is population related to tornado damage? - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Is population related to tornado damage?

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Does population have anything to do with tornadoes and the damage they leave behind?  Or, are storms getting stronger? 

Take a look around Butler County.  It's no secret the area is growing and developing.  But, just how fast is it happening? 

"Butler County's been growing since the 60s, honestly, consecutively.  Really in the last 10 years or so, we've seen about a 15 percent increase, up to about 368,000 residents, a little bit more.  They're expecting that to grow even into the next few years," said Matt Haverkos, Operations Manager for the Butler County Emergency Management Agency.

This kind of growth might be because of a movement out of city areas.  So, are these more populated areas linked to damage left behind from a tornado like we saw in Moore, OK? 

"When you have a concentration of housing like you saw there in Moore, OK, it's easier for a tornado to devastate many, many more homes.  So, population density and the density of housing is highly related to how much damage, how many injuries and how much death there is," said Steve Horstmeyer, FOX19 Chief Meteorologist. 

What about here in the Tri-State? 

Dating back to 1950, our area has seen one EF5 tornado, and at least 10 EF4 tornadoes in our viewing area.  Any tornado that comes through the area has a higher probability of hitting a home or business because of more people spreading out around the Cincinnati metro area.  

This isn't a new trend. 

"It goes way back to the very first tornado researcher ever.  Back in the 1880s, he put together a map.  That map shows the occurrences of tornadoes back into the 1600s.  If you look at it, there's nothing going on essentially in what we now call Oklahoma.  It was Indian territory, no people there.  Look at the cluster of observations around Kansas City.  Lots of people there getting ready to head to the west," added Horstmeyer. 

But, the other question is, "Could the amount of damage be attributed to storms getting stronger?"

"As far as tornadoes getting stronger, there is a school of thought that says as the earth warms, there's more energy around, and they could be stronger.  But, it's a lot more complicated than that.  So, will they or won't they?  Nobody really knows at this point," said Horstmeyer. 

As for Butler County, no matter what happens, they're trying to stay ahead of severe storms.  Haverkos added that as population has expanded, they've beefed up their emergency response to stay on par with that expansion.

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