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Tornadoes Claim Fewest Lives Since 1916

January 30, 1987

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Tornadoes last year killed the fewest people in 70 years of keeping records, in part because improved technology gives faster warnings, the National Severe Storms Forecast Center said Friday.

There were 15 deaths in 1986, the least since 1916, said Fred Ostby, director of the center.

Weather patterns in 1986 and a public that is more educated about tornadoes also helped keep the toll down, Ostby said.

″We only had three violent tornadoes, tornadoes that in our classification system had wind speeds in excess of 100 mph,″ Ostby said.

The average number of deaths in a year is 90, Ostby said, although the number of deaths from tornadoes has been declining for the past 10 years.

In 1984, the worst in recent times, 124 people were killed, including 57 in a series of twisters that hit North Carolina and South Carolina.

Ostby said the center has improved its ability through computers to match satellite pictures of weather patterns with actual data such as temperatures and wind speeds.

″We are taking advantage of of new technology so that we can present data to the forecaster in such a way that weather conditions are a lot more diagnosable,″ Ostby said.

For 1986, the severe storms center did not have an estimate of property damage from tornadoes. The worst single storm caused $6.5 million damage in Edmond, Okla., on May 8, although only 23 people suffered minor injuries.

The most deaths came in a storm that hit Jacksonville, N.C., killing four people.

Texas had the most tornadoes last year, 131. There were 32 tornadoes in Kansas and 17 in Missouri.

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