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Strange but true: WA has more tornadoes this year than Midwest states

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Story Link: http://www.komonews.com/weather/blo...e-new-Tornado-Alley-Not-really-297304791.html

In proof that you can spin statistics in numerous ways, you could truthfully declare that Washington has been one of the most tornado-prone states in the nation this year.

That includes typical tornado alley stalwarts Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. At least as of March 23, they haven't had any tornadoes reported! They join 43 other states with that distinction.

The only tornado outbreaks so far this year have been in the southeast, where Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia have accounted for 23 of the nation's 27 tornadoes*. Florida has had two and both Washington and California check in with one each, meaning the I-5 corridor has out-tornadoed the typically-stormy I-35 corridor.

(Washington's tornado was the EF-1 that hit Gig Harbor on Jan. 17.)

But it's not so much the tornado that hit Washington that's unusual but the lack of tornadoes so far in the Midwest. March is the start of the severe weather season, but so far this year, it's been eerily quiet. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has only issued four tornado watches -- normally they've had 52 by now.

"We are in uncharted territory with respect to lack of severe weather", Greg Carbin, SPC's warning coordination meteorologist, wrote in a blog entry on their home page. "This has never happened in the record of SPC watches dating back to 1970."

The seemingly never-ending ridge of high pressure along the West Coast has been favorable to keeping severe weather conditions out of the Midwest.

"We're in a persistent pattern that suppresses severe weather, and the right ingredients -- moisture, instability, and lift -- have not been brought together in any consistent way so far this year," Carbin wrote.

But national forecasters warn that just because it's a quiet start, it doesn't mean a quiet season. It's April and May when the peak of the season gets going, and some of the past seasons that have had a slow start have made up for it in bunches later. So I fully expect this statistic to be moot fairly soon. Washington averages about 1-2 tornadoes a year while Texas averages 137 alone.

* - SPC preliminary report has 2 tornadoes for Washington, but it appears it counted 2 separate reports of the Gig Harbor tornado as separate tornadoes.
In 2005, there were more tornadoes(two) on Thanksgiving day within 5 miles of my brother's house in Maine than there were tornadoes in Oklahoma during the month of May(zero).