Blog: Peak severe weather season starts this week

A look at severe weather in the southeast
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 1:38 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Tornado season has already started off busy in the U.S.

Strong tornadoes can occur in any month, as evidenced by the devastating EF-4 tornado in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on March 24.

Although these storms can happen in any season, the typical peak time for severe storms and strong tornadoes across the US is April, May and June.

Severe weather season
Severe weather season(WVUE)

In southeast Louisiana, that trend holds true with the highest number of tornado events falling at the end of April through the start of May. There is also a second peak in tornado events in October through December. The highest average number of tornadoes by month in Louisiana is in April, measured over the 25 year period from 1997 to 2021.

April tornadoes
April tornadoes(Clear)

This year has already been an active one for tornadoes, as preliminary data from the Storm Prediction Center shows 297 tornadoes this year in the U.S. through March 27. The annual average from 2005 to 2015 is 201 tornadoes. This year’s count so far is the highest since 2017.

The total tornado count in February alone was 53, ranking 2023 as the tenth most on record for the month. Combined with the January count, the SPC says the 178 tornadoes in January and February ranks as the fourth most tornadoes on record to start the year.

The SPC issued the most Tornado Watches in February since 2016, totaling 13. Most of these were in the Mid-Mississippi Valley.

Although it may seem that this active start would indicate a busy year for tornadoes, in recent years there has been little relationship between the number of tornadoes occurring in the first part of the year (January - March) and the annual total.

One explanation for the active start is the parade of low pressure systems impacting the West Coast since the start of the year. These strong low pressure systems continue to track eastward and make their way into the plains and southeast where they interact with the warm Gulf Coast waters and Gulf moisture.

If this active pattern of West Coast storms persists in to the peak of severe weather season, we could see more weeks of severe weather ahead.

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