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2024 US Tornado season on track to be one of the most active in history

The 2024 tornado season has been extremely active so far (Credit: NOAA via Accuweather.com/CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Tornadoes can strike the United States at any time of the year, but are most active from March to July. Although they occur nationwide, “Tornado Alley” is the most prone to twisters. This includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and Ohio.

The number of twisters typically increases in April, with an average of about 182 twisters. However, April was particularly active, with more than 300 tornadoes across the country. More than 100 of them occurred in ten states from April 25 to 28, 2024. More than 30 tornadoes were confirmed in Oklahoma, at least twenty in Iowa, 20 in Texas, 16 in Missouri, 15 in Kansas and 13 in Nebraska.

The worst tornado outbreak of the year so far has caused significant damage. One of the hardest hit is Marietta, Oklahoma. The city of about 2,900 inhabitants was hit by an EF-4 twister on April 24, 2024 – winds between 267 km/h and 320 km/h. The powerful storm killed one person and leveled several people. structures, including a hospital and a nursing home.

Photo of the tornado in Mindell, Iowa around the time it struck the city on April 26, 2024 (Credit: Wxtrackercody/ CC BY-4.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

Minden, Ohio, also suffered significant damage after a powerful storm ripped through 600 people on April 28, 2024. 48 homes were destroyed and significant damage was caused to more than 300 structures – homes and businesses.

Tornado activity has not decreased in May. As of May 12, 2024, at least 133 tornadoes have been confirmed nationwide. Most of them are clustered around Oklahoma, Michigan and Tennessee. However, the twisters have also been observed as far south as Florida. On May 10, 2024, the state capital, Tallahassee, was hit by three different tornadoes. The storms damaged several buildings and destroyed trees and utility poles. Thousands of people have been without power since May 13, 2024.

Experts say the number of tornadoes so far is higher than average for this time of year. But it doesn’t come close to the record set in 2011. That year, 1,287 tornadoes had hit the US by May 7. But with more than two months to go until the end of the high season, that could quickly change.

A tornado is a very powerful rotating column of air that starts at the base of a thundercloud and extends all the way to the ground. They form only during very heavy rotating storms called supercells, which form when cold, dry polar air comes into contact with warm, moist tropical air.

As the warm air rises, the winds around the storm cause it to rotate and form a funnel. The air in the funnel rotates faster and faster, creating a low-pressure area that sucks in even more air and sometimes even objects. While normal thunderstorms last between 30 and 60 minutes, supercells develop many upward and downward air currents and can live for hours.

Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world, but the United States suffers the most, with about 1,200 tornadoes touching down each year. The “Tornado Alley” is especially susceptible to these storms due to its unique geography. Here, dry air from the Rocky Mountains meets warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cold Arctic air from the north. The combination of the three provides perfect conditions to produce powerful storms that often turn into deadly tornadoes.

Sources: foxweather.com, Washingtonpost.com, Weather.com, Noaa.gov