How Does Surviving a Tornado Change Someone?

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter


By Rachel Begle

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Picking up the pieces after your home has been leveled by a tornado is an experience many Iowans know all too well. So how does that experience change a person? A University of Iowa professor set out to answer that question and the answer surprised him.

While survivors over estimate the odds of a tornado hitting where they live, once their home has been torn apart, they think a twister is less likely to damage their home again in the future.

Jerry Suls, a psychology professor, began the study after he saw first-hand the destruction caused by the tornado that tore through Iowa City in 2006. He began interviewing survivors about how they felt in the aftermath and compared their perceptions to those who had never been impacted by a tornado

He found survivors were very optimistic they wouldn't sustain damage or injury in a tornado again in the future. But Suls said since there's no way to know where a tornado will touch down, that level of optimism can be a bad thing. "We believe that means you're less likely to be prepared for it. To get a flashlight, get water, listen to the radio, don't go out if somebody says there's a tornado," said Suls.

While survival boosts confidence, survivors actually over estimate the danger. Most believe there is a 10 percent chance of ever being hurt in a tornado. The National Severe Storms Lab estimates the odds of a tornado hitting any one area in a year's time is less than 1 percent.
The odds of being injured or killed are even less. The better prepared you are and the more you heed those warnings, the better your chances for survival.

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