Why was the tornado death toll so much worse in Nashville than Dayton?

The tornadoes that devastated Nashville overnight Tuesday topped out at speeds lower than those that ripped through the Dayton region on Memorial Day, although the death tolls are vastly different.

As of Tuesday evening, at least 22 people had been reported dead in Nashville, with dozens more unaccounted for. In comparison, two people died as a result of the Dayton-area tornadoes.

It’s too early in the process and there’s a lot to learn about the Nashville tornadoes before experts can draw any conclusions. But typically, the time of day tornadoes strike, the types of structures and the like can impact the death toll, said Seth Binu, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio.

The Tennessee tornado struck about 2 a.m., when many people were asleep, so they likely didn’t have enough time to find safety, he said. A warning was in effect when the tornado hit Tennessee, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Diamond, who tweeted that “the heart of Nashville had approximately a 5-10 minute lead time from when warning was issued to when tornado hit.”

That’s unlike the Dayton-area Memorial Day tornadoes, which occurred around 10 p.m., when more people were awake, and they learned about the tornado warnings while watching television and on their phones.

“Other factors will be the types of structure impacted, whether they were well built or mobile homes, although I don’t know what types of homes were struck,” Binu said.

The tornado that hit Nashville was an EF3, meaning its speed was between 135-140 mph, whereas the 16 tornadoes that hit the local region ranged from EF0 to EF4, which speed ranges up to 166-200 mph.

Of the record 16 tornadoes that swept through western Ohio on May 27, four touched down in Montgomery County, impacting 10 jurisdictions. The most destructive, rated an EF4 by the National Weather Service, tore a swath from Brookville to Riverside.

SEE PHOTOS: Walking the Path of the Storm

MORE PHOTOS: Deadly tornadoes slam into Nashville, central Tennessee

In addition to the high death toll in Nashville, at least 40 buildings collapsed. The twister’s path was mostly north and east of the heart of downtown, leaving many of its biggest tourism draws — the honky tonks of Broadway, the Grand Ole Opry House, the storied Ryman Auditorium, and the convention center — unharmed, the Associated Press reported.

Instead, the storm tore through areas transformed by a recent building boom. Germantown and East Nashville are two of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, with restaurants, music venues and high-end apartment complexes, the AP said.

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