Fall tornadoes could occur in atypical U.S. areas this year

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As fall progresses, it’s not typical for the south-central United States Plains to experience an extended tornado season. Tornadoes in October and into November would be more likely to occur along the Gulf coast, but that’s not where the action could be this year.

Instead, the Plains may be ground zero in a battle of northern cold fronts and southern warm air, which “could just create a lot of havoc,” according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

“We’ve already seen one big storm in the Rockies and it looks like we may continue to see more storms this fall moving out from the Rockies,” Pastelok said. “And if the stormy and colder pattern continues to stay in the Rockies and we have all of this warming trying to come in from the southeast, there’s going to be a good temperature gradient set up in the middle of the country for a couple of severe weather events.”

The first big snowstorm of the season dropped 3 to 4 feet of snow in spots across the northern Rockies.

“In the south-central Plains, it’s only going to get colder with these air masses from the north,” Pastelok said. “The Gulf waters are warm, so you have an increasing temperature difference setting up going into the late fall. I think we’re going to have some really rough stuff there in November.”

As a result, AccuWeather has updated its Fall Tornado Outlook and raised its tornado estimate based on the impacts already seen from Hurricane Dorian, as well as what is now expected in November. AccuWeather is forecasting between 1,400 and 1,475 tornadoes for 2019, an increase of roughly 50 tornadoes.

AccuWeather’s 2019 forecast released in February accurately pinpointed the areas to be hit hardest this year, with a higher frequency of severe weather risks in the traditional Tornado Alley — notably Oklahoma, Kansas and parts of Texas — than they had experienced on average the previous three years.

So far this year, Texas, with 174 tornadoes, has experienced the most in the U.S., according to preliminary, unconfirmed data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Kansas is second with 127, while Oklahoma with 92 is fourth behind Mississippi, which has had 94.

NOAA’s preliminary reports show there have been 1,519 tornadoes in 2019, but that total is not a confirmed final number. The inflation-adjusted annual tornado running total – which attempts to remove overcount by multiplying the preliminary total by 0.85 – is 1,291, according to NOAA.

There were 1,124 tornadoes in 2018, and the 25-year average is 1,199 tornadoes a year, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center.

According to AccuWeather’s updated Fall Tornado Outlook, based on AccuWeather research, there will be roughly 40-50 tornadoes in October and approximately 65-75 in November.

The 25-year average number of U.S. tornadoes for October and November is 58 and 56, respectively, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center.

“Tornado activity could linger into early December, depending on when the storm track decides to shift a little farther, said Pastelok.