2014 has so far been a fairly quiet year for tornado activity. On average there are 299 tornadoes reported from January through April, while this year there has only been 109 (preliminary) tornado reports as of April 23, according to the Storm Prediction Center. The month of April is generally considered the beginning of the tornado season and on average has 155 tornadoes.
Despite the slow start, a powerful system moved into the central U.S. on Sunday, April 27 with tornadoes reported from Nebraska to Mississippi. The worst hit area was Faulkner County, Arkansas where the towns of Vilonia and Mayflower appear to have been directly hit by a strong long-track tornado. The figure shows a screen shot of radar velocity imagery and the broad circulation region (arrow) after passing through Mayflower. Vilonia was also hit by an EF2 tornado three years ago, which was one of over 300 tornadoes that occurred in the largest outbreak on record, April 25-28, 2011. The tornado that occurred on Sunday has yet to be rated, but preliminary damage reports suggest that it may have been stronger than the 2011 tornado.
The system that spawned the tornadoes on Sunday is expected to generate more severe weather as it moves east on Monday. The Storm Prediction Center has issued a High Risk (as of 0319pm EDT), anticipating several tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds throughout Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, with a Slight Risk of severe weather into the Carolinas and Ohio Valley region. Several tornado watches and warnings are currently in effect as of 0340pm EDT. More information on the current situation can be found here: http://www.spc.noaa.gov.
The Mayflower/Vilonia tornado has preliminarily been rated an EF3 by the NWS, and damage surveys are ongoing. Dozens of tornadoes were reported on Monday, April 28, affecting a number of communities in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Additionally, the Storm Prediction Center has issued a Moderate Risk for Alabama and Mississippi again today. In addition to tornadoes, straightline winds, and hail, flooding is increasingly becoming a threat as storms move over already drenched areas.
Thankfully yesterday's severe weather in Alabama and Mississippi did not reach the level of activity anticipated, but there were several tornadoes reported in North Carolina. The NWS in these regions will begin damage surveys today and the SPC has issued a preliminary map (shown here) of the tornadoes that occurred, and will be updating it as the surveys are completed: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/wcm/2014/20140427-28-map.png.
Right now several communities are working to pick to up the pieces, and Swiss Re is doing its part to provide support. As the 2014 tornado season gets underway, it is important to prepare for what's to come, and we can work together to build resilient communities to minimize the impacts of future disasters.
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Floods/storms
Location: Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee USA