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From 1971 through 2007, tornado magnitude or intensity was measured on the Fujita scale (F scale), introduced by Theodore Fujita in 1971, and it ranged from F0 through F5. On 1 February 2007, the EF scale replaced the F scale. The EF scale has the same basic design as the original scale, with six categories from 0 to 5 representing increasing degrees of damage (Paul 2011). It should be noted that EF and F scales are damage scales, not, strictly speaking, intensity measures, even though we use them to control for magnitude (Wurman et al. 2007).
Damage area was initially reported as 2.81 mi2; however, according to the FEMA GIS map, it was approximately 7.44 mi2. The average tornado damage area in the United States is less than 1 mi2 (Simmons and Sutter 2011).
The number of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed differs not only over time, but also from one source to another. A six-page long report published by the City of Joplin on 5 April 2013 reports that the 2011 tornado destroyed and damaged 4000 and 3500 residential dwellings, respectively. The Jasper County GIS estimates damage or destruction of a total of 7608 structures, including 792 commercial structures, while the USACE claims a total of 8369 structures damaged or destroyed, including 321 commercial structures (Levitan 2011).
Various sources report different fatality totals for the 2011 Joplin tornado. As of 1 November 2012, the SPC reported a death toll of 158 (SPC 2012).
There is some ambiguity in the SPC’s categorizations of locations of tornado fatalities. For example, there is no direct reference to the business/commercial structures. Instead, it uses a category termed “permanent building/structure.”
According to FEMA/USACE labeling, “moderate” is the zone with the least tornado damage. Though traditionally, “limited” should be zone with the least damage, we deliberately did not correct the damage zone labeling. In the catastrophic zone, most solid structures were destroyed, while destruction of some solid structures with most sustaining exterior damage occurred in the extensive damage zone.