Major storms including tornadoes in the Plains and Southeast… flooding in the Northeast… severe heat in the Southwest… wildfires in the West and Northwest.
All of these severe weather events have occurred in just the last few months. And we’re only halfway through summer.
Unfortunately, there will be plenty more wild weather to come this year. With inevitable power outages and evacuations to follow.
Let’s take a quick look back at some of the relentless weather episodes we’ve seen recently. Then we’ll examine what still is likely headed our way.
Tornadoes Struck Early & Often
It didn’t take long for 2023 to show us what we were in for this year. According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, January produced the third most tornadoes of any January in recorded history in the U.S.
February was nearly as bad for twisters in America. And by early April, 63 tornado-related deaths had been recorded. That’s about three times the national average for the first 100 days of the year.
These statistics change often, but the latest count for the U.S. is 883 confirmed tornadoes in 2023. This includes 112 EF2 tornadoes (111-135 mph winds), 26 EF3’s (136-165 mph), and 2 EF4’s (166-200 mph). Those wind speeds are equivalent to what we see in major hurricanes.
The worst tornado outbreak of 2023 occurred March 31 and April 1, affecting multiple states. Including Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, and Iowa. Confirmed tornadoes totaled 147. More than 750,000 power outages occurred during the outbreak, and many whose homes were damaged were forced to evacuate.
Unrelenting Heat Suffocated South & Southwest
The recent heat wave in the South and Southwest has been the lead story in countless newscasts.
Residents of Texas, Florida, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and others were sweltering for weeks on end with no relief in sight. Phoenix, Arizona reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit for 21 consecutive days, breaking a record that had stood for nearly 50 years.
Temperatures were regularly hitting 100+ degrees in Roswell, New Mexico and Dallas, Texas. It’s almost always hot in Death Valley, California, but temps outdid even themselves recently, reaching 127 degrees. It was also 115 degrees in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Heat waves put tremendous stress on our power grids. A recent news report claimed that two-thirds of America could experience blackouts this summer due to the heat.
Tens of Thousands of Wildfires
The heat is not just unbearable for residents. It also impacts the landscape in many parts of the country, due to a lack of rain. And that makes wildfires more likely and more difficult to control.
As of two weeks ago, over 27,000 wildfires in the U.S. this year have burned more than 777,000 acres of land.
A number of large wildfires are currently being fought in states including California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon. In addition, smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to blow into a large number of states.
Wildfires frequently affect electrical power stations, causing outages that take days to repair. Many homeowners are forced to evacuate when fires get too close to their homes.
Deadly Flooding in Pennsylvania
Flash forward to flash floods. Just last month, seven people drowned in flooding 30 miles north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Severe thunderstorms affecting millions of people across the Northeast from Maryland to Maine produced the deadly flooding.
A 32-year-old mother drowned while trying to save her 2-year-old daughter and 9-month-old son, both of whom also tragically perished. Her 4-year-old son was saved by his father, and a grandmother also survived. The others who drowned ranged in age from 53 to 78.
The Upper Makefield Township Facebook page called it, “a mass casualty incident the likes of which we have not seen before.”
Flooding from storms is often accompanied by downed trees and electrical wires, with power cut off and some forced to evacuate as their homes become flooded.
Hurricane Predictions Amp Up
What can we expect for the remainder of summer and into the fall? More of the same, I’m afraid. Weather experts predict continued high temperatures for much of the country.
Wildfires almost always hit their peak in late summer and early fall. And while the number of tornadoes may decrease, we’re smack-dab in the middle of hurricane season.
The El Niño weather pattern traditionally suppresses hurricane development. But here’s what Weather.com says about the situation: “The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season may be one of the most active for any El Niño season on record, due to record-warm Atlantic Ocean water temperatures.”
The Weather Company recently increased its hurricane prediction for the rest of this season. It now includes a projected 20 total storms. Ten of them are expected to become hurricanes and five are anticipated to reach at least Category 3.
As we’ve seen from past hurricanes, blackouts and evacuations are an inevitable consequence.
Outages & Evacuations Are on the Horizon
What do increases in severe weather events mean for the average American?
Basically, they mean the likelihood of power outages goes up. With some of those outages possibly lasting longer than normal if storms are severe enough. And that makes having backup power more important than ever.
For some folks, it could mean a temporary evacuation. Wildfires and hurricanes have a bad habit of doing that.
We see it over and over again. Extreme weather isn’t going away. In fact, it’s likely to increase. But for those who prepare for it, peace of mind overcomes worry.