STATE COLLEGE, reports nearly 1,200 tornadoes have been reported in the United States so far this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 2011 is a year destined for the tornado record book.

Among these tornadoes, four have been deadly and rated at EF-5, which is the highest rated strength for a tornado. The death toll has surpassed 500, significantly higher than the average annual fatalities of about 60.

Why has this year had so many devastating tornadoes? Are they really, as some media state, unpredictable? Accepting that nature causes destruction, is there anything that we can do?

Meteorologists in both the public and private sector have shown there is something that can be done through investment in enhanced warning infrastructure and more awareness of severe weather events. The experts at have in the past provided and continue to provide highly accurate and actionable warnings for specific sites and businesses.

While science does not have the tools to stop a tornado from touching down, we are able to drastically reduce the loss of life and property. Site-specific forecasts keep people informed well ahead of a tornado and provide enough time for them to take shelter.

Site-specific weather forecasts allow businesses and public agencies to know when a tornado is approaching their exact location and when it is not. With the latest in Doppler radar technology and the specialized skills of a severe weather meteorologist, we are able to track tornadoes at street level and provide timely warnings.

For industries, including retail, manufacturing, transportation and others, these forecasts can better protect employee lives and sensitive physical and intellectual property in a way that allows them to maintain continuity of business, lessening the impact of tornadoes on local economies.

In addition, these forecasts can help government agencies to know when their shelter areas or locations essential to the continuation of public services are threatened. In that way, local relief and public safety services can avoid interruptions at a time when they will be desperately needed.

Multiple firms in the private weather industry offer excellent site-specific warning services for severe weather events; the problem is that many businesses and most localities are not informed about or don't take advantage of these services.

During the Joplin, Mo. event, emergency sirens sounded 20 minutes before the twister landed. However, many people were still caught off guard. This might be in part due to the high proportion of precautionary alarms given by the National Weather Service in the past. The Tornado Warning false alarm rate for the Springfield, Mo. NWS office, for example, was 76 percent from 2008 through May 22. If you look at 2010 through May 22, the rate was 85 percent. In addition, according to a recent survey on's Facebook page, 90 percent of our fans who voted thought they only needed less than 10 minutes to get to safety when a tornado is approaching.

While the National Weather Service warnings are a boon to the public at large, they are not suited to the requirements of specific businesses. False alarms are not only inconvenient to the public, they can also be serious issues for businesses.

"To a hospital, a false alarm takes the focus off patient care and forces medically difficult sheltering," said Mike Smith, a Senior Vice President/Chief Innovation Executive of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions. "To an automotive plant, a rapid unplanned shutdown prompted by a false alarm, for example, can ruin automobiles being painted, at considerable cost.