Oklahoma Tornadoes: Approximate Death Toll Likely Not Known for Days

Today’s Oklahoma tornadoes are already catastrophic in terms of damage and loss of life. It’s important to keep in mind that information in events that devastate a wide area often takes substantial time to finalize. Based on the experience of the 2011 Joplin, MO tornado, which officially killed 158, it will take days to determine an approximate death toll and weeks if not months to finalize a death toll.  In the Joplin tornado, based on information from breakingnews.com, AnalysisWire finds:

  • Just over half of the fatalities ultimately reported were reported in the first 12 hours (89 / 158).
  • About three quarters of the fatalities ultimately reported were reported within two days after the tornado (122 / 158).
  • Six days after the tornado, ninety percent of the fatalities ultimately reported were known (142 / 158).
  • The precise final number of fatalities was not known within one week of the storm.  It took many weeks to finalize the number of fatalities.

Here’s the chart showing the changes in reported fatalities over time.  The tornado was reported during the 6 pm ET hour on May 22, 2011:


Source: BreakingNews.com


  • All fatality numbers are from BreakingNews.com
  • All times are Eastern
  • Highest fatality number reported is used.  Lower totals are ignored if they are later superseded by higher totals.

Sources and times (as reported by breakingnews.com)

Date and Time Fatalities Source (as reported on BreakingNews.com)
5/22/11 6:53 PM 0 Stormchaser4850 Tweet about Tornado
5/22/11 9:34 PM 24 News-Leader.com
5/23/11 12:59 AM 30 Reuters (‘in the 30 range’)
5/23/11 6:35 AM 89 KSHB
5/23/11 1:37 PM 90 The Weather Channel
5/23/11 4:13 PM 116 Editor
5/24/11 8:45 AM 117 NBC-2.com
5/24/11 6:32 PM 122 AP
5/24/11 8:41 PM 124 CNN
5/25/11 6:43 PM 125 AP
5/26/11 6:42 PM 126 AP
5/27/11 10:03 AM 130 NBC News
5/28/11 10:58 AM 139 AP
5/28/11 4:49 PM 142 AP
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