Tornado season is officially upon us, which means folks in tornado alley need to be prepared. May and June are typically always peak season, which an average death toll of 80 each year according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It's estimated that over 1,200 tornadoes hit the U.S. annually, which is over three times what other countries around the world experience.
Some of the deadliest tornadoes in United States history have taken place in May and June. Some of the most dangerous tornadoes form from supercell storms each year, though they are a more rare form of twister to encounter. Scientific improvements over the years, as well as the Doppler radar, have led to earlier warnings from Meteorologists that have saved more lives -- even though populations continue to increase throughout the central plains, southern plains, and the Midwest. Despite this, the number of twisters each year continues to rise, so people need to be more ready than ever.
Here are some things to keep in mind and tips to keep you prepared:
- Have a safe room in your house that is stocked with essentials, so that you can barricade yourself inside if necessary. Make sure there is food, water, important documents, and even items for your pets.
- Put away loose outdoor items that could blow around in the high winds and damage your home (or you). Keep everything secure just in case.
- If severe weather is coming, make sure to watch for some of the warning signs: funnel cloud, hail, roaring wind sounds, flying debris, thunderstorms and green skies. Even the high wind speeds surrounding a tornado are dangerous so do yourself a favor and stay home to be safe. Definitely listen if the National Weather Service is announcing tornado warnings or putting your area under an official "Tornado Watch."
- If you live in a state prone to tornados and can have a basement...you want a basement. Not a luxury that people in Texas can take advantage of, but these are already in most Midwest homes.
In remembrance of those impacted by some of the most horrific U.S. tornadoes, here are six of the worst in history. Each of the following tragic storms, which ripped through and destroyed parts of Midwest cities, took place in May and June.
1. Tri-State Tornado on May 18, 1925
The deadliest tornado in U.S. history is the Tri-State Tornado of May 18, 1925. The EF-5 tornado, which hit Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, killed 695 people and injured 2,027.
2. Great Natchez Tornado on May 6, 1840
This tornado devastated parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, killing 317 and injuring 109.
3. Flint, Michigan on June 8, 1953
116 deaths were recorded and over 800 injuries in the worst tornado in the history of Michigan. There was a tornado outbreak in the state with 10 twisters ripping through. There was $5 million in damages as a result. The highest strength on the Fujita Scale was an F4.
Despite the intense destruction, the weather community learned some valuable lessons from the experience. They created a bell system to help with early warnings. They also learned how hiding underground can help save lives. One couple survived by hiding in a ditch after they were nearly caught in the middle of the horrible storm.
4. New Richmond, Wisconsin on June 12, 1899
The New Richmond tornado took place before the enhanced Fujita scale, but it's estimated that this reached an F5 level. A 45-mile trail of destruction was left behind with 117 deaths and hundreds injured. There was little warning due to a bad thunderstorm, and the funnel was only illuminated by lightening right before it hit the town. Luckily over a century later, we are more equipped to prepare ourselves for these tragic disasters and now have a Storm Prediction Center.
5. Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011
This horrific tornado reached an F5, with the funnel reaching as wide as a mile during the peak of its destruction. The strange thing about this particular tornado is that it continued to get stronger, wider and faster as it made its way through the town. It has gone down in history as the most expensive tornado, with damages costing $2.8 billion. There were 158 deaths and over 1,000 injured in this tragedy.
6. St. Louis, Missouri on May 27, 1896
Between Missouri and Illinois, this twister had winds reaching as high as 260 mph with damages costing the equivalent of $307 million today. After causing intense destruction in downtown St. Louis, this storm led to a number of tornadoes that broke out the Eastern U.S. the next day. There were at least 250 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. Lafayette Square and the Compton Heights neighborhoods were some of the hardest hit in what is estimated to be an F5 tornado.