Preliminary reports say 34 tornadoes touched down across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during Tuesday’s outbreak although that total will probably be revised downward as duplicate reports are discovered.
But if you listen to anchors on the news or read the comments on weather stories like we do, many were saying tornadoes in December is not normal or it’s due to global warming, etc. (sigh)
Actually … tornadoes happen in the U.S. year round. Most tornadoes obviously occur during the spring and early summer months, but December twisters are not as rare as people think.
The following chart shows the number of tornado reports listed in NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center’s Annual Severe Weather Report Summaries for 2000 through 2012. (Note: 2012 data is through Dec 19th so does not include the 34 preliminary reported tornadoes on Christmas day.)
If you run your finger across the month of December, you’ll see a few wild variations. There were 99 tornadoes in Dec 2002 but only 1 in 2003 … and the 13-year average for December is 35 so tornadoes DO happen throughout the year and it’s just part of Mother Nature’s mood swings. When warm moist air in the south or southeast collides with winter cold fronts, bad things can happen.
Interesting tornado statistics
- The U.S. has more tornado sightings than any other place in the world and averages about 1,300 tornadoes each year.
- The last time a number of tornadoes impacted the Gulf Coast area around Christmas Day was in 2009, when 22 tornadoes occurred during the morning of December 24th.
- According to the National Weather Service (NWS), at least one killer tornado has occurred during the month of December in 8 of the last 20 years. Over the entire official record, at least one killer tornado has been recorded in December almost every other year (27 out of 61 years).
- The highest recorded tornado occurred in 2004 over Rockwell Pass in California’s Sequoia National Park at about 12,000 to 12,500 feet.
- Tornadoes can last for several seconds or more than an hour, but most last less than 10 minutes.
- The force of a tornado can strip asphalt chunks off roads, rip clothes off people and pluck feathers off chickens.
The most important thing to do year round wherever you live is to pay attention to forecasts, keep a NOAA Weather Radio handy when nasty weather is brewing, and learn what to do before, during and after various types of emergencies and disasters.
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