Predicting that a tornado will form is one of the most challenging aspects of a meteorologist’s job.
They can usually tell when conditions will be ripe for a tornado outbreak due to a variety of factors. But whether a tornado will actually form is anybody’s guess.
How do weather forecasters assess potential tornado trouble? One way is looking at Pacific Ocean climate patterns. Just as they look at Atlantic Ocean climate patterns when predicting hurricanes.
The current climate pattern in the tropical Pacific is La Niña. Unfortunately, it’s favorable for tornado formations. Especially in the South and Southeast. This pattern features cool waters in the equatorial tropical Pacific.
Will It Be Another 2011?
Due to this pattern, meteorologists say we could be in for an unusually potent tornado season. If so, it will mark the third consecutive such spring. During April of both 2019 and 2020, more than 270 tornadoes were reported.
La Niña years have been associated with particularly active tornado seasons. Including the record-breaking month of April 2011. That’s when more than 700 tornadoes were recorded.
That “2011 Super Outbreak” was one of the largest meteorological disasters in U.S. history. And one of the most expensive. Over a three-day span, there were more than 300 deaths, 2,800 injuries and $10 billion in damage due to tornadoes.
Victor Gensini is a professor of atmospheric sciences at Northern Illinois University. He accurately predicted the May 2019 Great Plains tornado outbreak. More than three weeks in advance.
“La Niña tips the scales to greater (tornado) counts,” he said. He added that this climate pattern “tends to favor tornado outbreaks more frequently.”
‘A Lot of Tornadoes in a Short Amount of Time’
John Allen is a professor at Central Michigan University. And one of Gensini’s research colleagues. He said that with La Niña, “tornado season tends to be earlier and more active.”
He added that, “You’re not going to accumulate (tornadoes) slowly. There tends to be a lot of tornadoes in a short amount of time.”
Seven states may see the brunt of tornado activity this spring. They are Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Plus Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.
But forecasters add that tornadoes can occur just about anywhere. And, as Allen said, “It only takes one tornado to cause damage to your home.” More tornadoes mean more power outages. Larger tornadoes mean longer-lasting outages.
There Is Cause for Concern
As in 2011, we’ve actually had a slow start to the tornado season in 2021. As of March 1, only 24 tornadoes had been reported.
Two of those tornadoes were very destructive, however. Three people died in North Carolina from mid-February tornados. One was killed by a tornado in Alabama in late January. And, of course, tens of thousands experienced power outages.
The recent cold snap affecting much of the nation put tornadoes on the backburner.
But now land temperatures have normalized. And Pacific waters have cooled. So, there is cause for concern.
What to Watch For
Tornado warning signs include rapidly darkening skies. And clouds rotating in a circular pattern. Also, a funnel cloud being spotted. And sometimes a rushing or roaring noise being heard.
If conditions are right for a tornado to develop, a tornado watch is issued. If a tornado warning is proclaimed, it means a tornado has been spotted in your area. You should seek shelter immediately.
Also, tune into emergency radio communicated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their reports will always be slightly ahead of mainstream media reports.
4 Tornado Safety Steps
Ready.gov offers four steps to take during a tornado.
- If you’re indoors, get to a basement, storm cellar or the lowest level of a building. Stay away from windows, doors, corners of buildings and outside walls.
- ·If you’re indoors but can’t get to a lower level, find the smallest interior room or hallway. It should be as far from the exterior of the building as possible.
- ·If you’re driving, try to head to the closest structure where you can take shelter.
- ·If you’re driving but can’t get to a shelter, don’t try to outrun it. Pull over, get out of the car and lie face down with your hands over your head in a ditch. Or another lower level near the roadway but away from vehicles.
Once a tornado passes, you may not be out of the woods yet. Most people who suffer post-tornado injuries get hurt while trying to clean up debris. Including glass and nails.
Also keep an eye out for downed power lines, ruptured gas lines and damaged structures.
Be Prepared for the Worst
Extreme weather is not only becoming more frequent across the U.S – it’s also becoming more intense. Add in the pandemic and slower power outage response times, and we are looking at a recipe for disaster.
That’s why more and more Americans are taking matters into their own hands and preparing themselves for severe weather.
An obvious choice to help with power outages is to have a generator on hand.
But if that generator runs on gas, there could be a bigger problem than not having power.
That’s why I recommend using a solar generator instead. My top recommendation is the Patriot Power Generator.
You can use it to run kitchen appliances. Power your personal or medical devices. Or light up a room with an LED light string… for weeks at a time.
There is no worry about running it inside your house because it does not produce fumes like a gas generator. And it recharges using only the power of the sun, so you don’t have to worry about gas shortages either.
And it’s all available on an easy monthly payment plan.