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Menopausal Mother Nature

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What New Yorkers Need to Know About Tornadoes

Officials in Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma — states where tornadoes are more common — said that drills in which students walk to an enclosed area, away from windows, helped ensure that warnings were taken seriously even outside school.

Experts said this practice would be useful in New York, which mandates drills for fires and other emergencies but not for tornadoes.

History shows some of the horror tornadoes can inflict on cities. In 1896, one killed 138 people in St. Louis. In 1925, a tornado killed nearly 700 people across three states, injuring 2,000 others and obliterating 15,000 homes. In 2020, several tornadoes shredded East Nashville, killing 25 in Tennessee.

What makes New York City especially vulnerable to a tornado, experts said, is its large population — largely unfamiliar with tornado safety — and its architecture, with many older buildings and an abundance of potential debris.

In Manhattan, a powerful tornado could cause billions of dollars in damage. In other boroughs, neighborhoods could be smashed and utilities seriously damaged.

“This summer was really a big wake-up call for this area, that we’re not immune to the effects of severe thunderstorms, and the perils that they bring, which includes tornadoes,” said Megan Linkin, a meteorologist and senior underwriter at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, an insurance company.

“You would have an extreme amount of flying debris, and the debris causes extraordinary, life-threatening damage,” said Illya Azaroff, an architecture professor at the New York City College of Technology. Wind could make older buildings look “like a dog’s chew toy,” he said.

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