JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A devastating Sunday afternoon was brought on by the onset of 81 tornadoes which obliterated hundreds of homes and killed six throughout Illinois and Indiana with countless other counts of wind damage and large hail.
So what the heck happened? I mean November isn't necessarily a month you think about when you think of tornadoes. April and May, yes. But November?
According to Dr. Greg Forbes, tornado expert who worked along side famed researcher Ted Fujita who invented the F scale for tornadoes, "November is the second season for tornadoes."
The most notable of November tornado outbreaks occurred in 1992 when 94 tornadoes wiped out thousands of homes and killed 26 and injuring 641 people across 13 states stretching from southeast Texas all the way to Maryland.
Sunday's outbreak in Illinois and Indiana, while rare, isn't unheard of. However this outbreak is notable for producing Illinois' first EF 4 tornado on record in November.
The reason Dr. Forbes described this as "the second season" is because it really is the counterpart to the Spring. Anytime you have two colliding air masses, cold verses warm, you create an unstable environment that severe storms thrive in. According to NOAA (see at right), November is responsible for 52 tornadoes of the annual total. Clearly outbreaks this large are rare.
The atmosphere is currently being set up for the Winter months. So you have the cold air rushing in from Canada and you still have the warm, moist air feeding in from the gulf. The battle of the seasons is on and often times, this is the result: 81 tornadoes, 525 damaging wind and 42 large hail reports totaling 649 reports overall.
A big "atta boy" goes out to the National Weather Service and the Storm Prediction Center for their spot on prediction of such an enormous outbreak. At right, you can see the forecast versus the reality of what really happened.
The SPC categorizes threats of severe weather by using the designation of "slight", "moderate" and "high". Sunday's outbreak was given a very rare but dire "high risk". It is the most serious and ominous forecasting tool used by the SPC.
The high risk is so rare that some years pass without one being issued. For the year 2013, Sunday's high risk was only the second to be issued---the first being back in June.
Given forecast accuracy and ample warning, few people were killed in this event. The truth is this was a well forecast event in which the dire urgency of impending disaster went out over 24 hours in advance.
Sunday's outbreak produced a whopping 81 tornadoes---two of which are now being considered EF 4's (166-200 mph). The one that gutted Washington, IL is among them. It is likely that this number will be reduced once the duplicate reports are removed. As it stands now, this will go down as the 4th biggest November outbreak on record. However, I suspect that further reduction in that number will kick this outbreak out of the top 5.
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