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Science and the Environment

Forecasters Warn That Outside of Severe Weather Season Storms Still a Threat

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National Weather Service

Sunday marked the 5-year anniversary of the Joplin tornado. It’s a reminder that this time of year is when severe storms are most likely.

“We are never really out of the severe weather season,” meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Springfield, Gene Hatch states.

The typical severe weather season runs from mid-March to mid-June, with reduced activity as the year progresses. However, tornadoes and other severe weather events can occur at any point of the year.

So far this year, the season had been relatively light in comparison to past years. There have only been a few severe weather events that have occurred in the region, according to Hatch.

Even with Joplin’s devastating tornado in 2011, Hatch says the number of tornadoes that year in this region was low. He points to the last major outbreak in 2008, which actually occurred in early January and produced at least 33 tornadoes.  

On a single day in May 2003, supercell thunderstorms produced 15 tornadoes causing significant damage across the region and killing 25 people.

According to Hatch, the pattern for tornadoes and severe weather typically occurs when moisture is brought up from the Gulf of Mexico. But over the last several years that pattern has been light, which has decreased those numbers.

“It is difficult to forecast the severe weather season well in advance,” Hatch says.

On a local level, NWS forecasts potential future weather patterns on a weekly or even daily basis.

The summer and winter months are when tornadoes and severe weather events are less active; however, there is a secondary peak from late September to early November as the season transitions.

The National Weather Service tracks tornadoes and thunderstorms each year. View recent activity and that from decades ago for southwest Missouri here