Saturday July 20, 2019

US Scientists Find Out Why Some Don’t Choose to Take Shelter During Tornadoes?

Kim Klockow, a scientist at the University of Oklahoma, is involved in the research as a social scientist and compares her field to medicine

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Police stand at the ruins of a hotel in El Reno, Okla., May 26, 2019, following a likely tornado touchdown late Saturday night. VOA

Following a severe tornado earlier this year in Alabama that killed 23 people, scientists interviewed residents in the area to find out why the storm was so deadly and made an important finding: almost everyone had heard the warnings about the impending storm and had enough time to seek shelter, but some chose not to.

“From a national standpoint, a media standpoint, forecasters did a great job” predicting the March storm in eastern Alabama, Stephen Strader, an atmospheric scientist at Villanova University, said. “But why did we see 23 fatalities? Why didn’t they take shelter?”

These questions are a central part of new research that is being conducted in collaboration between physical scientists, like Strader, and social scientists to try to determine why people behave the way they do during a storm, including whether they choose to seek shelter or not.

The goal of the research is to provide more information to forecasters and policymakers to create better tornado warning systems. Strader said that as a physical scientist, his job is to look at all the physical factors of a storm, including “how wide was it, where did the tornado track, how many homes were damaged.”

He said social scientists, on the other hand, try to find out more information about people’s choices. “We want to understand the decision-making about tornado warnings. If a warning comes, what do you do?” he asked.

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FILE – A tornado rips through part of Oklahoma. VOA

Social science

Kim Klockow, a scientist at the University of Oklahoma, is involved in the research as a social scientist and compares her field to medicine. “Everyone wants to know what treatment to pursue, but there needs to be a diagnosis first,” she said, adding that social science is like the diagnosing phase. In the aftermath of a storm, she said, “all we have is the death total, which doesn’t tell us much.”

When a death toll is low, like after a powerful tornado hit Kansas in May but left no fatalities, Klockow said people call it “a miracle.” However, she said even these situations are “frustrating, because we don’t know why” there were no fatalities.

The death rate from tornadoes in the United States had steadily decreased from 1920 to 1990, but since then has stalled, according to research Strader has done. The reasons for this are not well understood, Klockow said. Without more information, “it is hard to say why things are happening the way they are.” “What I’m advocating for is observation,” she said.

Mobile homes

The new research focuses primarily on people who live in mobile homes, as those structures are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes. Roughly half of the fatalities from the March tornado in Alabama were residents of mobile homes.

Strader said it is not just that a mobile home is more vulnerable to storms, but that the people living in them are often more disadvantaged and have more complexities in terms of their decision-making. He said they might not have a vehicle or might not know where to go.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends people who live in mobile homes flee to a safer structure during a tornado, even if their mobile home is tied down, while those who live in traditional houses are advised to go to their basement, or if they do not have one, to an interior room.

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A tornado is seen South of Dodge City, Kansas moving North on May 24, 2016 in Dodge City, Kansas. VOA

Strader said there used to be a belief that people who lived in mobile homes were less educated about the weather. However, he said current research shows they know just as much about the weather as anyone else and are also aware that their mobile homes are not safe. However, sometimes they freeze or don’t know where to flee, he said. “There are a lot of issues we have to start dissecting,” he said.

Getting to safety

Strader suggested that the safest course of action would be for people in mobile homes to flee to safety at the first sign that a tornado could strike, when forecasters issue what is called a “tornado watch,” even before a tornado has formed and they announce a “tornado warning.”

ALSO READ: Natural Disasters Take Psychological Toll on Survivors

He acknowledged, however, this could be a difficult choice for people to make. Strader said people have all kinds of belief systems and biases that could prevent them from seeking shelter, including a fatalistic attitude, thinking, “If I am going to die today, it will be today.’”

According to Klockow, people need to be motived with a little fear, which can drive them to action, but warned that too much fear can make people freeze.

“We can find people kneeling on the floor praying instead of trying to get to a shelter,” she said. Klockow said people tend not to blatantly disregard information about an incoming tornado, but said, “very often, people don’t feel that they need to do something about it.” (VOA)

Next Story

Scientist Turned Chef Yunan Yang Ditches Lab to Experiment with Food

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago

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Chefs work with peppercorns shipped overnight from the owner's hometown of Chongqing, China, said Yunan Yang, the owner. VOA

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago. Her plan was to study cancer. As a post-doctorate cancer researcher, she spent six years in Madison, Wisconsin, and worked to publish her findings in scientific journals.

She used radiation and chemicals in her research, which took a toll on her body. She said her job affected her platelet count, which made her bleed easily.

“After I (lost) two babies when (I was) pregnant, I had to make a big decision. My doctor told me, ‘Yunan, you have to write your last words (will) because we don’t have time to save you. Your body, whole body (at any) moment could be bleeding,’” Yang recounted.

For her health, and to prevent future miscarriages, Yang chose a second career as a restaurateur, moving in the opposition direction of many immigrants in the United States. Instead of entering the restaurant business first in hopes of sending her kids to college, Yang began working in the restaurant business after her life in research.

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Pepper Twins owner Yunan Yang left her career in cancer research and started her first restaurant four years ago in 2015. She now has six Sichuan Chinese restaurants throughout Houston. VOA

Her inspiration for opening a restaurant came during a trip to a conference in California, where she saw an hour-long line of hungry patrons waiting to get into a Chinese restaurant.

In Madison, the small city where her lab was located, she said “We don’t have a good Chinese restaurant.”

Yang did not start a restaurant in Chinese enclaves like many other immigrants across the U.S. She opened restaurants outside of Chinese communities, in affluent neighborhoods. In Houston, the most diverse city in America, she said its residents’ tastes in Chinese food have become quite discerning.

“American guests, they can find out which one is authentic Chinese restaurant.” Yang continued, “They travel a lot around the world. They know (what) original Chinese food looks like.”

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Ravi Chawda is a diner who loves spicy food. He has never been to China but knows the difference between the so-called American Chinese food and something more like what he would get in China.

“I’ve done a lot of business with the Chinese, so I’ve been to some pretty authentic places. This is by far one of the most authentic,” Chawda said.

Yang said one key ingredient in her restaurant is fresh peppercorns from her hometown of Chongqing, China near Sichuan, a province known for its spicy dishes. The peppercorns are shipped overnight to Houston and create a flavor called “mala” in Mandarin meaning numbing, tingly, and spicy.

The hometown flavors are also drawing loyal Chinese guests, such as Yan Xiang Yu, who attended university in Chengdu, a city in Sichuan.

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Some of the popular dishes at the Pepper Twins restaurant, clockwise from the upper left: Golden Eggplant (top), Spicy Persian Cucumber (right), Crystal Pudding (left). VOA

“I think the biggest highlight is they can really deliver well the ‘ma’ (numbing/tingling) feeling. The peppercorns are very flavorful,” said Yu who would eat at Pepper Twins when he craves the “mala” feeling in his mouth.

Yang started her first restaurant four years ago, since then, she’s expanded to six locations throughout Houston.

Also Read- Leaders of Texas Abandoning Proposal that Would have Essentially Banned Abortions in Their Community

Not only does Yang have a successful restaurant business, she also now has two children who inspired the logo for Pepper Twins. (VOA)