Injuries from the Wichita Falls Tornado: Implications for Prevention

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Science  15 Feb 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4432, pp. 734-738
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4432.734


We examined the circumstances of death and injury among victims of the tornado that struck Wichita Falls, Texas, on 10 April 1979. We also assessed the protective measures taken by a representative sample of community residents who suffered no major injury in order to estimate the relative risk of injury to people directly in the tornado's path. Twenty-six (60 percent) of the 43 traumatic deaths and 30 (51 percent) of the 59 serious injuries occurred in people who, despite ample warning, went to their cars to drive out of the storm's path. These people had a risk of serious or fatal injury of 23 per 1000. People who remained indoors and in stationary homes were at relatively low risk (3 per 1000) if they took simple precautions; people in mobile homes were at greatest risk (85 per 1000). Current safety recommendations and housing codes for single family homes and mobile homes need to be amended to decrease the impact of future tornadoes on human health.