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Discussing the relative risk of tornadoes vs earthquakes with a friend got me thinking about roughly how many people have been in tornadoes in their lifetime, which may be a statistic that would help put some minds at ease in tornado-prone areas, or help people better understand what they may see in various places.

I've seen various comparisons of deaths from natural disasters. They certainly change depending on the sampling period, as protection, warning, and even occurrence frequency of different disasters changes over time. (And what exactly counts as a death from each disaster) (These values seem to offer reasonable estimates for adults in the US to me.)

But I'd think it's just as meaningful to identify how much various disasters are directly dealt with.

I remember seeing an article 20 years ago from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey the average return period in some areas in central Oklahoma may be somewhere vaguely between every 1000 years to every 10000 years (obviously there are both cities and even specific points that happen to get them more often).

I can think of some ways to estimate/document such values... so what can you guys come up with?

For simplicity, let's say USA as the main goal. Bonuses for state calculations (Oklahoma in specific)... and also if you want to offer comparison to other disasters (though those estimates may be better as separate questions?)

Actual data (studies, papers, etc) would of course be best, but I'm guessing that may be very limited and also perhaps distorted by what data has been recorded... so estimates of the actual values with well described reasonings/source data would be great.

Information is power, and I can see this type of statistic being useful to folks in understanding life and the world around them.

** (I do realize that how you define "in a tornado" also likely greatly alters values. Could go by various tornado windspeeds, or just base it on tornado path dimensions given by storm surveys. As long as it is indicated/makes some sense)

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  • $\begingroup$ (And I do realize that how you define "in a tornado" also likely greatly alters values. Could go by various tornado windspeeds, or just base it on tornado path dimensions given by storm surveys. As long as it is indicated/makes some sense) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think the reason why such statistics don't exist is because nobody is interested in it. Don't get me wrong, your question is interesting in terms of "intellectual stimulation" I'd say, but that's pretty much it. When it comes to natural disasters, stakeholders, policy makers, emergency responders, insurances companies... All they want is to assess the potential damages, in terms of deaths, injuries, losses, costs, etc. Just knowing the probability of someone being in a disaster is not relevant to them, they want to know the probability of someone losing its home or its life. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ And I think this is true even for the public. If you tell me that I have a xx% probability to just be in a tornado, well, that doesn't teach me much. If you tell me that I have a xx% probability to lose my home to a tornado, or to die from a tornado, than I'm interested! There has to be some kind of stakes for someone to be interested in something, and ultimately for someone to bother computing statistics about it. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Jean-MariePrival I think probabilities have big meaning to most, albeit values are often poorly weighted mentally. If told there's a 20% chance of rain, it can alter people's big choices, or at least affect their minor ones (they take umbrellas), or if nothing else, adjust their reaction if they do experience the event (well, they said it might rain). Longer time periods pull people too (seasonal wx forecasts, or chances of a recession this year); lifetime risk is just the extension... I often hear like "xx% of people get cancer in their lifetimes", without resulting stakes, getting attention $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ "There's a 20% chance of rain" implies well-known consequences, and well-known countermeasures: you're gonna get wet, unless you take an umbrella. "There's a xx% chance you'll be in a tornado in a lifetime" is just too vague. What are the consequences, what can you do about it? That's what people want to know, and that's why statistics will rather tell "there's a xx% chance you'll lose your house/your life to a tornado". At least that's what I see from my perspective, but it's just my opinion. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 12:32

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