Studying the Louisiana and Kentucky Tornadoes

I recently returned to the field to meet with tornado survivors of the 22 March 2022 Arabi, Louisiana, tornado, and several locations in Kentucky that were impacted on 10 December 2021. We are grateful to all who shared their experiences and are working hard to make some good come from these tornadoes.

I continue to collaborate with an engineering team that is part of the broader StEER network. If you are willing to share your experiences with us, please reach out: dzaras@ou.edu. We know this is a very difficult time and wish everyone the best in recovery.

Below are several resources that we hope will help in recovery and in dealing with storm stress:

If your home must be rebuilt:

We encourage you to build back stronger. Building codes are a minimum, like earning a “D” grade in a class. Most homes are built to take advantage of gravity, but strong winds exert sideways and upward forces. When built with a continuous load path, your home will resist those sideways and upward forces and hold itself together longer. Strong winds from tornadoes and other windstorms do not last long. Seconds count. And consider this: even if your home is “totaled” you want it to provide protection for you, your loved ones, and your belongings. We encourage you to take five minutes to watch this video on the research: https://vimeo.com/237087513

Look for information on FORTIFIED Gold and build back stronger.

If your home can be repaired:

Consider making any part of the framing that you can access stronger and/or a safe room. Learn more: LaDue-Roueche-Resources

At the very minimum, consider installing a FORTIFIED roof. The most common impact to homes is water damage inside after losing some roof shingles. Did you know that the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) has ratings for roof shinglesThey have carefully studied the real properties of hailstones and can mimic them in their test facility. They are also studying other aspects of weathering.

Storm forecasts can be stressful:

Experiencing a tornado or other severe storm is traumatic, and you may find that it’s hard to stop reliving the events in your mind. You may find yourself cringing at noises that remind you of the event. There are many others who have gone before you, be it with storms or other traumas, and there are lots of resources to help.

Empower yourself by being more knowledgeable and prepared for the next time storms come. Visit: https://www.weather.gov/oun/stormanxiety

Prepare for storms:

  1. Know your local geography
  2. Get information from official, reliable sources
  3. Have 3 ways to get storm alerts and warnings
  4. Know where you will go if you need to take shelter

Do you need immediate emotional help? The Disaster Distress Helpline1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

For longer-term care, here’s how to find a counselor trained in trauma.

And there is here is information for helping children who have been through a tornado.

And finally, for those we have spoken with, here is a copy of our March 2022 consent form:

Return to the Field

The December 10, 2021, tornadoes led us back to the field. Thus far, we visited four areas stretching from Mayfield to Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Our trip was short, and we spoke with just a few people. We are interested in all tornadoes that occurred that day and hope to return in January to talk with more people. I continue to collaborate with an engineering team that is part of the broader StEER network. If you are willing to share your experiences with us, please reach out: dzaras@ou.edu. We know this is a very difficult time and wish everyone the best in their recovery.

Please see the resources below and share widely!

Resources for Tornado Survivors

Did you talk with us?

Thank you so much for sharing your story! Our research will make a difference in helping to make homes safer and improving safety advice about where to shelter during tornadoes. Here are links to the approved consent forms (information sheets) about our study:

Resources

Engineers, researchers, and meteorologists have been working hard over the last two decades, studying the damage caused by tornadoes and other types of windstorms (like hurricanes). They’ve been figuring out how to build homes that better withstand strong wind events — with minimal added cost. Congress has now created the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act (e.g., see NIST’s National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program Office or FEMA’s description of the Congressional program), aimed at continuing this research and seeing the payoff of these developments. This is good news because insurance costs have been rising fast in the U.S.

One exciting effort is by the independent, nonprofit group that is funded solely by property and casualty insurers and reinsurers that conduct business in the U.S. called IBHS: the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety. They built a facility with a giant wall of fans that allows them to test new construction ideas on one- and two-story homes and other structures. Other groups like FLASH: the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (with fantastic educational materials like this Resilient Design Guide) and and companies like Simpson Strong-Tie ( which has educational information for homeowners) are also involved.

Part of our goal with our research is to help, in our own small way, to get the word out on these exciting developments. IBHS’s FORTIFIED program is quickly growing and consumer demand can help move these advances forward. Insurance incentives can, too, and Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma all offer incentives for at least installing a FORTIFIED Roof, if not more. The FORTIFIED Home movement started in coastal Alabama and is now spreading. Read more about the Top 20 FORTIFIED Cities in 2020 from Smart Home America.

How can homes better withstand strong winds? Most homes are built to take advantage of gravity, but strong winds exert forces that are sideways and upward. When built with a continuous load path, your home will resist those sideways and upward forces and hold itself together. It will stay down on the ground longer during strong winds, which do not last long in a tornado and many other types of windstorms including downbursts. Seconds count. And consider this: your home may still be “totaled” if the winds are particularly strong (tornadoes of EF2+) but provide protection for you, your loved ones, and your belongings. Imagine what it would be like to not only be displaced, but lose everything, including heirlooms, family photographs, and so on. Survivors tell us that even the rest of the “it’s just stuff” is an incredible hassle to replace. It can take years before you feel fully back to normal life. We encourage you to take five minutes to watch this video on the research: https://vimeo.com/237087513

If your home must be rebuilt, look at the resources above and build back stronger.

If your home can be repaired, consider making any part of the framing that you can access stronger and adding a safe room. Learn more:

At the very minimum, consider installing a FORTIFIED roof. The most common thing to happen to homes is water damage inside after losing some roof shingles!

Did you know that IBHS has ratings of roof shingles? They have carefully studied the real properties of hailstones and can mimic them in their test facility. They are also studying other aspects of weathering.

Calm yourself and your family after the storm

Experiencing a tornado or other severe storm is traumatic. You may find that it’s hard to stop reliving the events in your mind, or you may find yourself cringing at noises that remind you of the event. There are many others who have gone before you, be it with storms or other traumas, and there are lots of resources to help:

Did you know there are counselors specifically trained in trauma? Here’s how to find one: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd

Do you need immediate help? The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Here is a web site for children who have been through a tornado: https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/disasters/tornado-resources

And here is a handout for parents to help their children after a tornado:

Regaining a sense of calm in the midst of the storm

Today I received an email from OU’s human resources with a reminder about resources for dealing with stress and anxiety and this reminded me of resources I already know about and have been sharing with tornado survivors.

App icon for the Mindfulness Coach
The app icon for the Mindfulness Coach

Mindfulness Coach

Practicing mindfulness means grounding yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful for reducing stress and coping with unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness Coach will help you practice mindfulness meditation.

This is a FREE app from the Veterans Administration, with both Google and iPhone versions available: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/mindfulcoach_app.asp

Learn more here: https://youtu.be/XSQntf2uPnc

If you don’t want to download an app, there are very similar tools in the VA’s PTSD Coach Online: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/ptsdcoachonline/

Revisiting My Study of Forecaster Learning

I am honored to be at the CALMET XIII / Eumetcal conference hosted at EUMETSAT this week to lead a workshop on the implications of my dissertation results. It is so fun to be meeting people from all over the world who are training forecasters. The image below shows pins for all the locations: from Australia to Argentina, Nicaragua to Niger, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Fiji, Grenada, and so many more countries. CALMet is a vibrant and wonderful community.

It has been interesting to hear how my work has resonated, and I look forward to learning more about that after my workshop. I also hope that my work is extended in the future. While informative and representative of my study participants, it was just one study. There is likely more to be learned.

Here are some key publications and a handout:

Here is link to the conference presentation (video) and paper (PDF) from when my dissertation was almost complete (2010). The following year I presented a poster (PDF) of the complete study. These are free to download/view.

Here is a link to my 2018 paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society on facilitating self-directed learning. Self-directed learning can be a misnomer: it is often actively facilitated by others, and it is in the best interest of the field to do so.

And finally, here is a handout of the key diagrams from (or related to) my dissertation:

Building Better

A colleague and I spoke about our Survivor Story Pilot Study at an outreach event in Lee County, Alabama, on May 30. Dr. David Roueche, from the Auburn University, is a structural engineer. We explained that a survivor’s experiences during a tornado and knowledge of their structure might either challenge or confirm forensic engineering studies of tornado damage, and shared some of the latest science on how to build and secure homes to the ground better.

We shared information about the latest in disaster engineering science, including this video in which IBHS makes the bold claim that EF-0 and EF-1 damage can be virtually eliminated, and much of EF-2 damage can be prevented as well: https://vimeo.com/237087513

We also created this handout with links to information about building better and to dealing with storm anxiety, which is very common after disasters:

Please feel free to share it widely!

Out today: our chapter from the upcoming Oxford Handbook of Expertise

I am very pleased to see that our chapter on Expertise in Weather Forecasting is out today in electronic form: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198795872.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780198795872-e-38

It is part of an expansive handbook that will be out in print this fall (2019): The Oxford Handbook of Expertise https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198795872.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780198795872

My #DayofScience for #ScienceAThon

I had fun last week participating in the Science-A-Thon fundraiser for the Earth Science Women’s Network. I planned some of my tweets ahead of time, like this one:

Tweet about the Rav’s radar and sonar

 

I wrote some tweets on the fly, like these two:

My tweet that quotes another scientist’s post about how she gets paid to learn and read

Tweet about Briana getting the remaining REU paper books ready to distribute.

 

My REU students got involved and had fun.

Tweet about us helping David edit his title.

 

I collected the highlights into a Storify story. Enjoy!

Psst, it’s not too late to donate to my fundraiser! Click HERE!

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