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Weather Talk: Tornado statistical trend is mostly encouraging

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The average number of deaths caused by tornadoes in the United States has been decreasing in recent decades. An aggressive warning system run by the National Weather Service, improving Doppler radar technology, and greater public awareness all have contributed to the trend. So far this year, 32 people have died as a direct result of tornadoes. Last year, there were only 10 deaths, the lowest count of the modern era.

The average number of annual tornado fatalities since 2001 is 55. However, most years have been lower than that. The average is greatly skewed by the year 2011, when 553 people were killed, mostly in two separate tornado outbreaks. On April 27, 317 people were killed, including 238 in Alabama. There were 62 tornadoes that day in Alabama, 54 of which produced EF-2 or greater damage.

One month later, 181 people were killed in another outbreak which included an EF-5 rated tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, on May 22.

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