Thursday, January 26, 2012

Those "Freakish" Winter Tornadoes

I thought I was going to drop the subject, but I wanted to point out some very interesting numbers I found from a fantastic website:

On the Monday evening (January 23rd) edition of ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, she mentioned that no one can believe tornadoes are happening in the winter because of this freakish and frightening weather pattern.  Diane, I'm here to help you and it's free of charge.

Reliable tornado statistics date back to 1950 and most of the data I found is official through 2008 and 2010.  So we have almost 60 years of good data to look at here!

Meteorologists consider the months of December, January, and February the winter months.  Over the course of those 3 months since 1950, there have been 333 official tornadoes in Arkansas:  116 in December, 117 in January, and 100 in February.  That averages to about 5 per winter season.

I also discovered there have been a total of 55 fatalities and 940 injuries.

I think it's extremely important to make sure everyone understands why this is an issue.  After the February 5th, 2008 tornado outbreak, the National Weather Service released an assessment of the storm.  In that report, the work of Dr. Walker Ashley of Northern Illinois University was referenced.  He found out that more people die in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama from tornadoes than any other place in the country.  This is called "fatality alley"  He listed several reasons including...

"1. Complacency.  In contrasts to other parts of the country, the south lacks a focused "tornado season" which can lead to complacency.

2. Early Season Storms.  Storms that occur before the national peak in the severe weather season, which spans May and June, may catch people off guard during a tornado event."

So when a national broadcast calls this "freakish", it undermines the work of many dedicated meteorologists to educate people and change the alarming statistics of "fatality alley".

Here's a map showing Dr. Ashley's research indicating the high number of tornado deaths in red and white.

Here's the video which started it all.  This is the opening of the Monday, January 23rd edition of ABC World News with Diane Sawyer

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand where your coming from but people just don't equate winter & tornados even around here! I was visiting family last Sunday and I mentioned watch out for storms possibly tornados as I was leaving. Every one of them looked at me like I was crazy. They said it's too cold for tornados. I had to explain the warm front and the system dynamics that were coming together later that afternoon. They still thought I was nutts I think. Even though it happens fairly regular it's usually to much lesser of extent than the crazy spring & fall monster storms. I think that the massive storms just stick in peoples heads and thats why they equate those periods of the year to tornados. Ps. Thanks for what you do. I enjoy winter weather so much and its nice to see a weatherman that feels the same way. Great job on building up the blog .

NOAA Winter Guidance