April, 2010

The Time Cost of Tornado Warnings and the Savings with Storm-Based Warnings

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The authors examine the cost of time spent under tornado warnings issued annually by the National Weather Service (NWS). County-based tornado warnings imposed substantial costs on the nation: an average of 234 million person-hours spent under warnings annually between 1996 and 2004, with a value of $2.7 billion (U.S. dollars) per year. Counties are large relative to tornado damage areas; therefore, county-based warnings overwarned for tornadoes, warning many persons a safe distance from the storm and not in immediate danger. In October 2007 the NWS introduced storm-based warnings (SBW) for tornadoes, which are expected to reduce the area warned by 70%–75%. SBW consequently will reduce the time spent under warnings by over 160 million person-hours per year, with a value of $1.9 billion. The time spent under warnings does not measure the full cost to society because many people do not respond to the warnings. Adjusting for warning response, this study estimates that SBW might save 66 million person-hours actually spent sheltering a year with a value of $750 million. Sensitivity analysis indicates that the value of time spent sheltering saved by SBW exceeds $100 million per year with a probability of 0.95.

FInd the article at the American Meteorological Society.