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Each year, from March to June, millions of Americans that live in the Midwestern and Southern United States, brace themselves for the tornado season. And while the twisters are often late, they never fail to make an appearance. This year's first big storm which arrived on Sunday, April 27th, was a deadly slow moving system that caused havoc across a large swath of the country from Oklahoma to Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Iowa, The Carolinas and even, New York.
Among the worst hit were the residents of the Little Rock, AR, suburbs of Vilonia and Mayflower where the tornado landed at about 7pm on Sunday night. Staying on the ground for much of the time, it grew half a mile wide and swept through 80-miles of the area, devastating the tiny communities that had faced a similar twister, exactly three years ago, on April 27th, 2011. In addition to razing several residences and businesses, it also destroyed a brand new intermediate school that was set to open in fall. Sixteen residents, lost their lives.
The tornado that touched the small town of Tupelo, MS on Monday, managed to destroy every building that lay in the two-block area it swept through. While there were a number of injuries reported, none were life threatening. The town of Louisville, MS, was not as fortunate. The twister that came through town was rated an EF4 – the second-most powerful on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, the system that rates tornadoes. Blowing in at speeds of between 166 mph and 200 mph, it caused extensive damage and resulted in several deaths.
Over 100 homes and businesses in the Southeastern Kansas town of Baxter Springs were damaged when a 2-mile long twister landed on Monday at 3.15 am. While 25 residents were injured, there were no deaths reported.
All in all, over 100 tornadoes were reported from Sunday to early Tuesday and the system was far from done yet. Moving towards the East coast it wrecked havoc in many areas with unprecedented heavy rains. The Florida Panhandle bore the brunt of the storm, with Pensacola receiving between 15-20 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, five of which fell in just one hour! The heavy flooding that ensued forced many residents to retreat to their attics. Though the storm is still causing weather disruptions in parts of the country, the worst seems to be over.
However, given that the season is just beginning, residents are wondering how many more severe storm systems they will encounter. And while scientists predict 2014 to be a relatively quiet tornado season, nobody knows for sure. That's because unlike blizzards and hurricanes, which take time to develop and spend hours lumbering across, tornadoes are small and quick, which make them difficult to predict and anticipate.
Were any of you impacted by this severe weather? If so, please share your experience with our readers, by adding a comment below.
A tornado is a very powerful rotating column of air that starts from the base of a thunderstorm cloud and extends all the way down to the ground. They form only during very severe rotating storms, called supercells that occur when cold dry polar air comes in contact with warm moist tropical air.
As the warm air rises, winds around the storm cause it to rotate and form a funnel. The air in the funnel spins faster and faster, creating a low-pressure area, which sucks in even more air and sometimes, even objects. While ordinary thunderstorms last between 30-60 minutes, supercells develop many updrafts and downdrafts and can live on for hours.
While tornadoes occur all over the world, the U.S.A. gets the most - About 1,200 a year. The worst hit area is a stretch of land known as 'Tornado Alley' that extends from Texas to South Dakota. This area is particularly vulnerable because it's where the dry air from the Rocky Mountains intersects with the warm, moist air from the Gulf and the cold Arctic air from the north. The mix of three, provide the perfect conditions to create storms powerful enough to turn into tornadoes