Residents of homes that sustained F4 or F5 damage in the deadliest of the 3 May 1999 tornadoes were surveyed to determine their responses to the tornado warning, reasons for their responses, and relative injury rates. There were 190 people in 65 surveyed houses at the time that warnings were issued. Television was the most commonly cited source of the warning (89%), followed by a telephone call (37%), sirens (37%), and AM/FM radio (25%), and 55% received the warning from more than one source. Nearly one-half (47%) of the residents fled their homes before the tornado struck. Of those who fled, 65% went to a tornado shelter, of whom 70% ran to the shelter (median distance 30 m) and 30% drove to the shelter (median distance 4.8 km). About one-half (53%) of those who fled their homes left in a vehicle. None of those who fled their homes, by foot or by vehicle, were injured. Of those who stayed in the home, 39% sought shelter in a bathroom, 38% in a closet, 9% in a hallway, and 15% in other rooms. Reasons for not leaving included believing the storm would not strike their house, believing it was too late or too dangerous to leave, having no transportation available, or having no alternative shelter available. Thirty percent of those who remained in their homes were injured and 1% killed. The rate of serious injury was not significantly different for those in a closet (14%), hallway (20%), or bathroom (23%). Tornado preparedness and warning programs should recognize that long tornado warning lead times and street-level television coverage allow residents to make reasoned decisions to minimize risk and that those decisions may include driving out of the path of the tornado.
Corresponding author address: Thomas W. Schmidlin, Dept. of Geography, Kent State University, P.O. Box 5190, Kent, OH 44242-0001. Email: email@example.com