April 21, 2011 in Washington Voices

Weather: Sudden spring swarm of twisters deadly, costly

Randy Mann
 

From April 14 through Saturday, more than 240 tornadoes were reported in the central and eastern United States, most in the Carolinas and Virginia. Normally, during an entire April, the U.S. usually sees about 160 twisters.

Tornadoes were reported in Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland. Approximately 81 twisters were observed in North Carolina alone, a state that normally receives 19 tornadoes a year. Forty-five people in six states were killed, making it one of the worst outbreaks since February 2008, when 57 people were killed in the Southeast. According to the Weather Channel, “this severe weather outbreak has had more tornado deaths in the past three days than in all of 2009.”

Initial damage assessments state that about 100 homes were destroyed and more than 600 were damaged. These numbers could rise over the next few days.

Tornado season is certainly in full swing across the central and eastern portions of the country. On April 10, 11 twisters were spotted in Wisconsin, which beat that state’s previous April record by one tornado.

Prior to the recent outbreak, the worst period of tornadoes in U.S. history occurred on April 3 and 4, 1974, the so-called “Super Outbreak.” A total of 148 twisters touched down in 13 states from Illinois and Indiana southward into Mississippi and Alabama. Over a period from 16 to 18 hours, 330 people were killed and 5,484were injured.

The property damages estimate from the Super Outbreak was an incredible $600 million. The most deadly and damaging tornado ever occurred on April 4 at Xenia, Ohio. Half of the town was destroyed and property damage exceeded $100 million.

In an average year, there are approximately 1,200 tornadoes sighted in the U.S., more than any other place in the world. More than 60 percent of all U.S. tornadoes each year occur in what is called Tornado Alley, which stretches from Texas and Oklahoma northward through Kansas and eastern Colorado into Nebraska and Iowa.

Next week, I’ll talk about the possibility of tornadoes in the Inland Northwest.

In terms of our local weather, average high temperatures early this week were as much as 10 to 20 degrees below normal. Measurable snowfall was reported across the region on Monday.

It still looks like this cooler and wetter than normal pattern will be with us into the middle of May.

I still believe that we’ll have a warm and dry summer as a strong stationary ridge of high pressure is expected to build into the region by late May and last through at least early September. This should mean many days this summer with afternoon highs near or above 90 along with a few days reaching 100.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@longrange weather.com.

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