Most Americans over age 50 associate tornadoes with open country, posing a risk to cropfields, barns and small, rural communities. We long assumed that these spectacular storms could only develop over flat terrain and that the varied topography of cities would tear them apart.
However, in recent decades, as occurred yesterday in Dallas, we have witnessed an increasing impact of tornadoes on large, urban centers. Some surely see God's hand in this apparent turn of events, punishment for the decadence and sinful behavior of the urban elite; perhaps the storms are directed toward Planned Parenthood Centers or non-Christian communities.
In reality, this increased incidence of urban tornadoes reflects the same process that threatens the Florida panther and corrals prairie dogs into tiny plots across Metro Denver. Suburban sprawl and commercial development are eliminating vast tracts of open space, urban areas are merging with one another and natural habitat is rapidly disappearing. The tornadoes that once tore across prairie, forest and farmland are now cutting swaths of destruction through our ever-expanding cities. As a result, the cost imposed by these storms, both in terms of damage to structures and the loss of human life, will continue to rise.