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AccuWeather: Damage from Tennessee tornadoes approaches $2B

By
John Roach, Accuweather.com
A path of damage swept through several neighborhoods after a tornado struck Nashville on Tuesday. Photo by Rick Musacchio/EPA-EFE
A path of damage swept through several neighborhoods after a tornado struck Nashville on Tuesday. Photo by Rick Musacchio/EPA-EFE

AccuWeather estimates the total damage and economic loss caused by the tornado outbreak in Tennessee in the early morning of Tuesday will be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, according to AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel N. Myers.

This is based on an analysis incorporating independent methods to evaluate all direct and indirect impacts of the tornadoes based on a variety of sources, statistics and unique techniques AccuWeather uses to estimate damage developed over a decade.

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This estimate includes damage to homes and businesses as well as their contents and cars, job and wage losses, infrastructure damage, auxiliary business losses and school closures. The estimates also account for the costs of power outages to businesses and individuals and for economic losses because of highway closures and evacuations, as well as extraordinary government expenses for cleanup operations.

Officials said at least 24 people throughout middle Tennessee had been killed by the outbreak of violent weather. A total of 12 unconfirmed tornadoes included an EF4 with winds of 175 mph or more, according to the National Weather Service. Nashville and several surrounding counties suffered widespread damage that is still being assessed by the NWS and insurance companies.

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"Nighttime tornadoes are the most dangerous because people are sleeping," Myers said.

The EF4 tornado struck in Putnam County, where at least 18 people died and 88 others were injured and more than 100 structures were damaged. In Davidson, Smith and Wilson counties one tornado was rated EF3 with estimated peak wind speeds at 160-165 mph, a path length of 53.4 miles, which is quite long for a tornado, and a maximum path width of 800 yards. Drone footage captured the swath of destruction that leveled hundreds and damaged thousands of structures across the state.

Initially more than 73,000 homes were without power after the tornadoes; power still remains out for more than 12,000 homes as of Friday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us.

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Last year's deadliest tornado was an EF4 that killed 23 people in Lee County, Ala., coincidentally also on Tuesday. Tornadoes and their destruction have killed a total of 32 people in the U.S. so far this year, counting the 24 in Tennessee; the total for all of 2019 was 41. Tornadoes cause an average of 80 U.S. fatalities annually.

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The U.S. tornado season typically runs from late February through November or sometimes into early December, although tornadoes can occur at any time.

It has been an active tornado season so far, with 141 preliminary reports of tornadoes through the first two months of 2020 (the NWS had not updated March records as of Friday afternoon). That's more than double the U.S. average of 64 for that period; there were only 44 in the two months combined last year.

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"With the weather being so warm this March, it may be more like April or May when it comes to tornadoes, all other things being equal," said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

In February, AccuWeather predicted March would be an active month for tornadoes, forecasting more than double the average of 75 tornadoes in the month.

The average number of tornadoes in the U.S. increases from 75 in March to 178 in April to a high of 269 in May before the average falls to 229 in June and continues dropping in subsequent months.

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Preliminary reports show there were 1,676 tornadoes in 2019, but that total is not a confirmed final number. The inflation-adjusted annual tornado running total - which attempts to remove overcount by multiplying the preliminary total by 0.85 - was 1,363, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The annual average number of tornadoes in the U.S. is 1,253, according to NOAA.

Tornado-related fatalities have been trending downward despite more people living in tornado-prone areas. The reasons for this trend include advances in weather science and technology, the increasing accuracy and speed of delivering warnings through cellphones and the effectiveness of warning methods such as through mobile apps, as well as enhanced partnership and cooperation between government weather services and the American Weather Industry that includes AccuWeather.

AccuWeather is a proud and early partner of NOAA's WeatherReady Nation resiliency program, which helps to continue this trend, and the company is proud to get these lifesaving warnings out to the public rapidly and accurately through its apps and website.

Here's how you can help those affected by the tornadoes in Tennessee.

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