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Are tornado warnings still being heeded?

Tornado reports nationwide have been running at a record pace, and forecasters worry whether people take them seriously as they issue warning after warning. More than 900 tornadoes have been reported so far this year, the National Weather Service said Friday.

When several tornado warnings were issued in a period of a few hours this week for Butler County, many people in David City, a community of about 2,500 about 65 miles west of Omaha, went outside to watch.

"We have so many storm warnings, you just become oblivious to it," Carmen Chaney said.

She and her husband, Paul, were outside with neighbors during the warnings. There was no confirmed tornado, and sirens were not activated because spotters didn't see a twister headed for town, Mrs. Chaney said.

Mrs. Chaney said she has a healthy respect for tornadoes since a twister caused $12,000 damage to her house a few years ago.

"But we didn't go to the basement Wednesday night. I don't know why," she said.

Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C., said warnings cannot be reduced in number just to have them taken more seriously.

"The problems created by not issuing a warning when one appears are far greater than those created by issuing a warning when no tornado appears," he said.

The 1,182 tornadoes reported last year in the lower 48 states set a record for the 40 years the weather service has kept track, said Jim Henderson, deputy director of the weather service's National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, Mo.

And the nation is on a record pace for tornadoes this year, he said.

As of Friday there were 923 tornado reports, Henderson said. The reports are based on warnings issued by the weather service and weather spotter reports.

A final count eliminates tornadoes that can't be confirmed. Last year, the center initially had more than 1,300 reports, Henderson said. Confirmation is based on damage or sightings.

Texas leads the nation in tornado reports this year with 140, Henderson said. It is followed by Kansas, 130; Oklahoma, 80; Illinois, 55; Florida, 53; and Nebraska, 40.

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