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The Latest Tornado Trends
 
Everything was torn up by tornado (rated EF4) rating along Highway 365 in Mayflower (Faulkner County) on 04/27/2014. After a long slumber, tornadoes came to life in late April, 2014. On the 27th, a destructive tornado (rated EF4) hit Mayflower and Vilonia (both in Faulkner Counties). The tornado was responsible for 16 fatalities. It was the deadliest single tornado in Arkansas since the Jonesboro (Craighead County) twister of May 15, 1968 (35 fatalities).
In the picture: Everything was torn up by tornado (rated EF4) rating along Highway 365 in Mayflower (Faulkner County) on 04/27/2014. Click to enlarge.

 

There were at least a dozen tornadoes on the 27th in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma. A tornado at Baxter Springs, KS injured 25 people. The next day (the 28th), an EF4 tornado swept through Louisville, MS, and 6 people were killed.

There was somewhat of a lull in May, when 22 percent of the nation's tornadoes are produced based on data from 1991 to 2010. Only 90 to 100 tornadoes were counted, which was well below the normal of 250 to 300. One tornado was confirmed locally (rated EF1 in Pope County).

 

Two monster tornadoes (rated EF4) occurred simultaneously near Pilger, NE on 06/16/2014.
In the picture: Two monster tornadoes (rated EF4) occurred simultaneously near Pilger, NE on 06/16/2014. The photo is courtesy of Jesse Risley via Facebook.
 

Tornadoes picked up again in June, including dual tornadoes that leveled buildings in and around Pilger, NE on the 16th. The storm that caused the destruction spawned five tornadoes, and four of them were rated EF4. On the 18th, another EF4 tornado tore through rural areas near Alpena, SD. The strongest tornado ever recorded in southeast Montana affected areas close to the Custer National Forest on the 17th. At least 200 to 250 tornadoes were tallied for the month. Around here, there were tornadoes on the north side of Batesville (Independence County) and south of Beedeville (Jackson County) on the 6th.

 

Severe weather warnings in the United States since 2002.
In the picture: Severe weather warnings in the United States since 2002. The graphic is courtesy of the Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM). Three of the slowest years were 2012, 2013 and 2014 (through August). 
 

Tornadoes mostly went into hibernation from July through September. Even so, there were some interesting tornado reports. On July 24th, a waterspout in Chesapeake Bay moved inland as an EF1 tornado through a campground in Cherrystone, VA. Three fatalities and thirty five injuries resulted. On the 27th, there was a strong (rated EF3) tornado at Speedwell, TN. This was unusual given that high end tornadoes seldom occur in the southern states during the summer. The next day, an EF2 tornado impacted Revere, MA. This was a rare case considering that Massachusetts gets only one tornado or so annually. There was another tornado (rated EF0) at Worcester, MA on August 31st.

Back in Arkansas, the state had only ten tornadoes heading into October. Three tornadoes were added on the 2nd, with another seven on the 13th. The latter event featured an EF2 tornado between Ashdown and Foreman (both in Little River County). Otherwise, all tornadoes were weak (rated EF0/EF1).

Even with this quick burst of tornadoes, the yearly total for the U.S. was somewhere in the neighborhood of 800. This was well short of the usual 1,200 tornadoes through the first ten months. A top 20 cool November kept severe storms to a minimum. With one month to go, 2014 promised to end as one of the least active years on record.

The lack of tornadoes was partly due to a lack of warm/unstable air to promote thunderstorm growth. Locally, average temperatures this spring (March through May) were generally one to three degrees subpar. Through November, it was the third coolest year on record. 

 

Average Temperatures in 2014 (Through November)
Site Avg Temp +/-
Fayetteville (NW AR) 56.6° -2.1°
Harrison (NC AR) 57.8° -1.8°
Jonesboro (NE AR) 59.4° -2.4°
Fort Smith (WC AR) 62.3° -1.3°
Little Rock (C AR) 62.4° -1.9°
West Memphis (EC AR) 60.7° -2.0°
Texarkana (SW AR) 63.8° -1.7°
El Dorado (SC AR) 62.7° -2.4°
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 61.9° -2.6°
Note: It was the 3rd coolest (118th warmest) January through November on record dating back to 1895. The statewide average temperature of 60.0 degrees was 2.1 degrees below normal. This was determined by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC.

 

Across the country, the first tornado rated EF3 or higher waited until April 25th at Whichards Beach, NC. This was the latest tornado of this magnitude or greater in any year since 1950 (the previous record was March 31, 2002 according to the University of Alabama at Huntsville). The last such tornado occurred during an outbreak of severe weather in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky on November 17, 2013 (a span of 159 days).

 

Longest Spans Between Tornadoes Rated F3/EF3 or Stronger
Year Ending Duration (Days)
2004 249
1994 227
1997 188
2014 159
2012 150
Note: The latest span ended on April 25, 2014. This data is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.

 

Tornadoes across the United States in the last ten years (2004-2013).
In the picture: Tornadoes across the United States in the last ten years (2004-2013). Typically, there are around 1,300 tornadoes annually.
 

There were also low tornado totals in 2012 and 2013. Between 800 and 1,000 tornadoes were noted in both years.

 

Tornadoes in Arkansas 
Year Tornadoes
2013 34
2012 18
2011 75
2010 33
2009 45
2008 81
2007 16
2006 25
2005 52
2004 48
Note: In Arkansas, the average number of tornadoes each year is 33. The most tornadoes in the last ten years were spawned in 2008 and 2011. These are the second and fourth most active tornado years on record. Both were La Niña (cooler than normal water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean) years.

 

Drought conditions were widespread as of 08/21/2012.
In the picture: Drought conditions were widespread as of 08/21/2012.
 

In Arkansas, a drought set in during the spring of 2012 and continued into the summer. It was the driest April through July on record. Drought eventually became a national problem. By late August, the drought encompassed a little more than 1,800 counties in 38 states. There was not much rain, and a lack of storms. With fewer storms, the potential for tornadoes was minimal.

 

Driest April Through July Periods in Arkansas (Statewide Averages)
Year Amount
2012 9.03"
1896 10.75"
1901 10.78"
1926 11.30"
1936 11.62"
1925 11.68"
1914 11.70"
1934 11.71"
1998 11.96"
1988 12.13"
Note: This data is courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center.

 

It was a Top 10 cool March in much of the southeast United States in 2013.
In the picture: It was a Top 10 cool March in much of the southeast United States in 2013. The graphic is courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center.
 

In 2013, when it was supposed to warm up in spring, it did not. It was a near record cool March in the southeast United States, which is where severe storms are most common this time of year. Thunderstorms struggled to pop up given these conditions. 

Here at home, average temperatures in March and April were the lowest on record in spots. This was the case at Booneville (Logan County), Brinkley (Monroe County), Hardy (Sharp County), Mammoth Spring (Fulton County), Newport (Jackson County) and Subiaco (Logan County). These sites have been in existence for more than 100 years.

 

Record Coolest Average Temperatures (March 1 - April 30, 2013)
Site Avg. Temp Prev. Record Year of Prev. Record Records Since
Booneville (Logan Co.) 51.9° 52.8° 1960 1906
Brinkley (Monroe Co.) 51.2° 51.8° 1983 1882
Hardy (Sharp Co.) 48.8° 51.0° 2008 1897
Mammoth Spring (Fulton Co.) 47.2° 47.4° 1996 1904
Newport (Jackson Co.) 50.4° 51.3° 1996 1884
Subiaco (Logan Co.) 51.5° 52.6° 1947 1897

 

In early May (on the 3rd/4th), light snow fell in the northwest counties. There had not been any snow in Arkansas this late in the year. The previous latest snow was on April 30, 1903.

Adding up all of the numbers, it was the fifth coolest March through May (meteorological spring) on record (an average temperature of 57.3 degrees).

 

Coolest Springs on Record in Arkansas
Year Avg. Temp
1960 56.5°
1931 56.7°
1924 57.0°
1983 57.0°
2013 57.3°
1993 57.5°
1947 57.6°
1958 57.7°
1971 57.8°
Note: This data is courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center.

 

Another factor in the low tornado count is the tropics. Tornado numbers often ramp up surrounding these systems, especially in August and September. However, the tropical Atlantic Ocean was relatively quiet in recent years. In all, only two systems made landfall in 2013 and 2014.


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