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Noted professor to visit MC, discuss economics of tornadoes

02/16/2012
The 2011 tornado season that brought devastation to Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., seemed worse than most years. In reality, it was, says college professor Kevin Simmons, who is internationally known for his work on the economics of natural hazards.

Simmons will be on the Monmouth College campus Feb. 22-24, speaking to business and science students. Those academic disciplines will also come together during a free public talk by Simmons, titled “Deadly Season: Analyzing the 2011 Tornado Outbreaks.” It will be held on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Barnes Electronic Classroom on the lower level of Hewes Library.

Last year’s tornado season, which through July had resulted in 548 deaths and an estimated $23 billion in property damage, stands out as one of the most deadly and costly years since 1950. As societal change continues to result in increasing exposure of wealth and property, Simmons believes that casualty and damage levels will dramatically increase if tornado occurrences reach levels observed decades ago. In his public talk, he will discuss the particular vulnerabilities that made 2011 stand out and point out the lessons we can draw from such a year.

Simmons earned a Ph.D. in economics from Texas Tech University, where he developed his research interest in the economics of natural hazards. Currently, he holds the endowed Clara R. and Leo F. Corrigan Chair of Economics at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

The co-author of the 2011 book, “Economic and Societal Impacts of Tornadoes,” Simmons has been interviewed by the New York Times, CBS Evening News, the Christian Science Monitor and USA Today, among others major media outlets. He has published more than 50 articles, which have been widely cited and have appeared in academic journals from a variety of disciplines including engineering, sociology, law and meteorology, as well as economics.

Two years ago, Simmons was selected as a Fulbright Research Scholar and worked with the International Centre for Geohazards in Oslo, Norway. He has served as an adviser for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as a consultant to the property insurance industry. He has also participated in the U.S. Weather Research Project and as a member of the steering committee for the National Conference on the Great Tornado Outbreak of 1999.