OKLAHOMA CITY - Here is a statement that caught me off guard.
"2013 was a relatively quiet year when it came to tornadoes."
That's what the Storm Prediction Center's Glen Carbin told me Monday at the National Tornado Summit in OKC. And of course, he's right. He tracks this kind of stuff as the SPC's Warning Coordination Meteorologist.
In 2013, there were roughly 900 confirmed tornadoes across the United States. That is considerably lower than the average number of twisters recorded in an average year! That number is right around 1,300.
Carbin says there is too much variability when it comes to tornadoes to pinpoint an exact cause. It might have been the colder-than-average start to the year across much of the United States. But then how do you explain this?
One of the two biggest tornado days last year occurred on January 29th when 68 tornadoes were reported. Of those, 49 tornadoes were confirmed. Sometimes, multiple reports of the same tornado add to higher preliminary totals. That big day occurred from Oklahoma to Kentucky and from Texas to Ohio.
Speaking of Oklahoma, we had 79 confirmed tornadoes in 2013, that is higher than our yearly average of 54. And of course we had a couple of big days in May. The Moore Tornado on May 20th stands out and so does the El Reno Tornado. You might remember Mike Bettes of the Weather Channel got caught in that tornado.
INTERACTIVES: Track the path of the Moore Tornado
The tornado threw the car he was riding in about 100 yards before it stopped rolling. I talked with Mike at the Tornado Summit. We'll air that interview in the coming days on 2 NEWS Works for You.
From the graphic above you can see that severe weather season peaks around May 20th to May 27th. You would think that one of the biggest tornado outbreaks of the year in the U.S. would occur near those dates, right?
Not last year.
Carbin said last year the biggest tornado day of the year happened on November 17th when 75 tornadoes were confirmed. So, our two biggest days happened not in the middle of severe weather season, but outside of the peak, in January and November.
Here is one more tidbit from our conversation. April 2011, there 700 tornadoes in one month, mostly across the southern U.S. The only other month that rivals April 2011 is April 1974. Another month that included a super outbreak. Carbin says there are similarities between the weather set ups for those two days and they also coincidentally happened in the same month over the same part of the U.S. 35 years apart. If there isn't another outbreak like this for 35 years then maybe Carbin says we can conclude that super outbreaks might be a once in a generation event.
This was the take-away from our talk - We must always be prepared and ready for severe weather, especially in Oklahoma.
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