Hurricanes and Tornadoes Compared – Hurricanes

Being deadlier implies that more people die from one storm or another. This is in fact the case; even just looking back over the past decade or two, far more people have been killed by hurricanes than by tornadoes. This is true whether we look at average number of deaths per storm, or average deaths per year.

There is an understandable reason for this. While tornadoes usually have much higher winds, and there are more of them touching down in the US each year than there are hurricanes that reach shore, tornadoes are also much smaller. A large tornado can be up to a couple miles across at the point that it meets the ground, while a small hurricane may span a hundred miles, and a large one can be far larger than this.

This means that many tornadoes don’t even get close to people and animals, though they can still cause damage. However, hurricanes moving over an inhabited area are going to impact virtually living in the area, within the radius of the storm. (Actually, a hurricane impacts even more than this, since there is often torrential rain well outside the radius.)

Further, tornadoes rarely last for more than a few minutes, while it is common for hurricanes to last many days.

Then too, there are the secondary effects. For tornadoes, the secondary effects are primarily through flinging debris at exceedingly high speed. Even a piece of straw, flung at 250 miles an hour, can be quite deadly.

A hurricane can have even more devastating secondary effects. Many people killed by hurricanes each year are killed by storm surges. Many more die from flooding and flash flooding caused by the enormous amount of rain. Yet more are killed by debris, usually pushed along by the force of water, rather than by high air speeds. Dams and levees can be overwhelmed, as we saw in New Orleans with Katrina, and property damage is far more wide spread.

To me, the bottom line is that neither storm type is one I’d particularly want to have to live through. But all things considered, I’d prefer to have tornado storms than a hurricane strike, in my area. At least my life expectancy would be greater.