Archive for Thursday, March 16, 2006

Spring usual start for severe weather

March 16, 2006

This year's Severe Weather Awareness Week started off with a powerful reminder of how quickly Mother Nature can turn deadly.

The National Weather Service's week, which began Monday to prepare the general public for severe weather, hadn't yet started when storms spawning several tornadoes ripped across the Midwest Sunday. But the storms were proof that though most Midwesterners have long dealt with the realities of spring storms, annual lessons on preparedness are necessary.

The week calls attention to the importance of having a plan and knowing where to go and how to seek shelter in a severe storm, according to Mike Hudson, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Pleasant Hill, Mo.

"What I tell folks to do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Hudson said. "If it is a quiet season, at least you knew what to do, and if it is an active season, then you were well-prepared."

On Friday, while discussing the upcoming severe weather season, Hudson said that people need to be prepared for a tornado, but they should also be aware of the danger of thunderstorms with hail, flash floods and strong, damaging winds.

"Winds exceeding 100 miles per hour can produce tornado-like damage," Hudson said. "It's something we want people to be aware of because they are more common."

Hudson's statements proved prophetic.

On Sunday, strong winds in Lawrence and Kansas City, Kan., pulled down trees, broke windows and ripped off roofs. And in the Basehor, Linwood and Tonganoxie areas, residents' homes and cars were pummeled with hail.

The National Weather Service for Kansas City's Web site showed preliminary reports of 20 tornadoes touching down Sunday, most of them in Missouri, killing at least nine people. One twister was reported in southern Leavenworth County, and another on the Kansas-Missouri state line in eastern Kansas City, Kan.

Record years for tornadoes were recorded in 2003 and 2004, and though the 2005 severe weather wasn't as active, it was still more active than normal.

A total of 13 tornadoes touched down in the Pleasant Hill service area, just above the 50-year average of 11 tornadoes per year. Statewide, Missouri recorded 31 tornadoes, more than its average 26.

Kansas recorded a state-record 135 tornadoes in 2005, breaking the record of 122 set just the year before. This is 80 above the normal yearly number of tornadoes in Kansas. The strongest tornadoes were rated F-3 and touched down in Neosho and Trego counties. Only three were in eastern Kansas, two of them in Atchison and Leavenworth Counties April 21.

A tornado on Nov. 27 last year in Allen County, Kan., as well as several on the same day in Missouri, were the second-latest tornadoes in a calendar year ever recorded.

"That goes to show you that severe weather is not just a springtime phenomenon," Hudson said.

The National Weather Service

SafeSide, a weather safety and preparedness program from The Weather Channel

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