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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 08, 2018 1:00 am

Great Plains welcome quiet tornado season

Washington Post

It's been a quiet year in Tornado Alley.

Oklahoma went until the beginning of May to log its first tornado, the latest in the season. Remarkably, Oklahoma City has yet to be placed on a tornado watch. In an average year, Oklahoma City would have already been issued five or six tornado watches by early June.

The National Weather Service issues a tornado watch when the conditions are right for tornadoes to develop. A warning is issued when a tornado is on the ground.

Oddly, Massachusetts and Vermont have been under tornado watches, beating out the state notorious for twisters.

It comes as no surprise that 2018 is shaping up to be one of the slowest tornado years in recent memory. Just over 330 have been counted so far, down from the nearly 600 normally seen by this time of year.

Like clockwork, the Great Plains see scores of twisters sweep across the springtime prairie. As the low levels warm thanks to Gulf moisture from the south, winter hangs on high in the atmosphere. The resulting clash of seasons unleashes some of the wildest storms on earth, buffeting areas from Texas to North Dakota in periodic rounds throughout the spring.

On May 1, several tornadoes spawned in Kansas and northern Oklahoma along and west of I-35. But only four EF-3 tornadoes have touched down this year. Most tornadoes have been on the weaker end of the scale, with the 17 in Oklahoma in May causing little in the way of damage.