A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Tornado pummels Nashville, TN., inflicting multiple deaths, severe damage; season is off to fast start

The outbreak of severe weather will continue to pummel portions of the U.S. this week. Rivers will rise, but most are expected to fall short of flood stage. While there is a statewide tornado warning drill Wednesday morning — it is just a drill and a reminder that tornado season has started and to be prepared in event of severe weather. Tornadoes, hail, lightning, wind and flooding are part of the severe spring weather risks in our area. Be prepared.

By Mark Roach

Even before Tuesday morning’s deadly tornado outbreak in Nashville, the 2020 United States’ tornado season was off to an unusually fast start. There were 141 preliminary reports of tornadoes through the first two months. That’s more than double the U.S. average of 68 from 1991-2015; there were just 44 in the two months combined last year.

Tornado devastation in Nashville (Photo provided)

If that total is later confirmed, it would be the fourth-highest number of tornadoes in the first two months since 1950, topped only by 1999 (234), 2008 (231) and 2017 (206).

“With the weather being so warm this March, it may be more like April or May when it comes to tornadoes, all other things being equal,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

In February, AccuWeather predicted March would be an active month for tornadoes, forecasting more than double the average of 75 tornadoes in the month.

The average number of tornadoes in the U.S. increases from 75 in March to 178 in April to a high of 269 in May before the average falls to 229 in June and continues dropping in subsequent months. There were 192 confirmed tornadoes in March of 2017, the most in any March since record-keeping began in 1950.

“It’ll be very important to see what happens in March,” said AccuWeather Lead Long-range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. “In the central Plains and lower Midwest by mid-March, things could get unstable quickly and we could have another active area there.”

Nashville tornado damage. (Photo provided)

Historically powerful tornadoes have occurred in March previously. The Tri-State tornado of March 18, 1925, that hit parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana was the deadliest single tornado in recorded U.S. history – and the second-deadliest in the world – with at least 695 deaths. Even 95 years later, the Tri-State tornado still holds world records for longest path (219 miles), longest duration (3½ hours), and fastest forward speed for a significant tornado at 73 mph.

Outbreaks, or families of tornadoes, also have made their mark in March. The Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1920 left 380 dead and at least 1,215 injured as a result of at least 37 tornadoes, 31 of which were considered significant that struck across the Deep South and Midwest states on March 28. Also, the March 2006 tornado outbreak sequence across several states in the Midwest and South produced 99 confirmed tornadoes that killed 11 people over four days.

March tornadoes are not all ancient history, either. Tuesday’s outbreak in Nashville that killed multiple people came on the one-year anniversary of the tornado outbreak that occurred in Alabama, Georgia and Florida and resulted in 23 deaths, making it the deadliest tornado outbreak in the U.S. since May 2013, when a massive and devastating tornado killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma.

Tornadoes and their destruction have killed more than 16 people in the U.S. this year, including preliminary numbers from the Nashville outbreak. In 2019, that figure was 41, which was well below the average of 80 U.S. fatalities annually.

See the rest of the AccuWeather story here.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment