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May 2019 could be historic month for tornadoes after unprecedented twister streak finally ends at 13 days

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
June 01, 2019, 1:20:56 AM EDT


After nearly two weeks, Mother nature finally gave the nation a reprieve on Thursday by ending an unprecedented tornado streak at 13 days. On each of those days, weather officials logged at least 8 tornado reports per day across the U.S.

The streak reached 11 days on Monday night when a flurry of tornadoes ripped through Indiana and Ohio, including an EF4 twister that struck Dayton, Ohio, causing significant damage to local communities. The next night, a destructive tornado, also an EF4, ripped through Linwood, Kansas. These are just a few of the massive tornadoes that have touched down recently in the country and extended the streak to almost the two-week mark. Tuesday was day 12, eclipsing the old record of 11, which ended on June 7, 1980.

As of Friday, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center (NWS SPC) logged 26 preliminary tornado reports on Tuesday. While these reports do not represent confirmed tornadoes, they do suggest that the record for consecutive days on which at least eight tornadoes touched down would be broken once the official totals are in.

That number extended to 13 days as 41 preliminary tornadoes were reported during Wednesday's severe weather event.

On Thursday, only two preliminary tornadoes were reported, bringing the remarkable streak to a welcome end. One of these tornadoes was confirmed by the NWS in Howard County, Maryland.

(Twitter photo/@divers)

Danny Ivers, a candidate for Hamilton City Council in Ohio, traveled to Dayton on Wednesday, May 29, with Haven Youth Group to help with cleanup efforts and photograph the devastation.

(Twitter photo/@divers)

Danny Ivers, a candidate for Hamilton City Council in Ohio, traveled to Dayton on Wednesday, May 29, with Haven Youth Group to help with cleanup efforts and photograph the devastation.

(Twitter photo/@divers)

Danny Ivers, a candidate for Hamilton City Council in Ohio, traveled to Dayton on Wednesday, May 29, with Haven Youth Group to help with cleanup efforts and photograph the devastation.

(Twitter photo/@divers)

Danny Ivers, a candidate for Hamilton City Council in Ohio, traveled to Dayton on Wednesday, May 29, with Haven Youth Group to help with cleanup efforts and photograph the devastation.

(Twitter photo/@divers)

Danny Ivers, a candidate for Hamilton City Council in Ohio, traveled to Dayton on Wednesday, May 29, with Haven Youth Group to help with cleanup efforts and photograph the devastation.

(Twitter photo/@divers)

Danny Ivers, a candidate for Hamilton City Council in Ohio, traveled to Dayton on Wednesday, May 29, with Haven Youth Group to help with cleanup efforts and photograph the devastation.

(Twitter photo/@divers)

Danny Ivers, a candidate for Hamilton City Council in Ohio, traveled to Dayton on Wednesday, May 29, with Haven Youth Group to help with cleanup efforts and photograph the devastation.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Erica Bohannon, leads reporters through her destroyed apartment after a tornado storm system passed through the area the night before, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Trotwood, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Debris is strewn about as homes are open up to the air Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at the Westbrooke Village Apartments in Trotwood, Ohio, after their roofs were torn off from a severe storm the night before.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm-damaged homes remain after a tornado passed through the area the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damaged homes remain after a tornado passed through the area the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Erica Bohannon's apartment was destroyed after a tornado storm system passed through the area Monday night, tearing her roof off while she huddled with her son and dog in her bedroom closet in Trotwood, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damage litters a residential neighborhood, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Vandalia, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damage litters a residential neighborhood, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Vandalia, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damage litters a residential neighborhood, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Residents and volunteers help clear debris from damaged homes resulting from a tornado storm system that passed through the region the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Residents and volunteers help clear debris from damaged homes resulting from a tornado storm system that passed through the region the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Residents and volunteers help clear debris from damaged homes resulting from a tornado storm system that passed through the region the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damage liters a residential neighborhood, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Vandalia, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damage litters a residential neighborhood, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Vandalia, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A section of roof remains torn from Brookville High School after a tornado hit the area the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A section of roof remains torn from Brookville High School after a tornado hit the area the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damage litters a residential neighborhood, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Vandalia, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Storm damage liters a residential neighborhood, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Vandalia, Ohio.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Homes stand damaged after a tornado passed through the area the previous evening, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Brookville, Ohio.

(Twitter photo/ Mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley)

Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, posted photos of the tornado damage on her Twitter account on Tuesday, May 28.

(Twitter photo/ Mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley)

Significant storm damage is visible at Foxton Court off of Shoup Mill Road in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, May 28, after a devastating tornado moved over the city.

(Twitter photo/ Mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley)

Significant storm damage is visible at Foxton Court off of Shoup Mill Road in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, May 28, after a devastating tornado moved over the city.

(Twitter photo/ Mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley)

Significant storm damage is visible at Foxton Court off of Shoup Mill Road in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, May 28, after a devastating tornado moved over the city.

(Twitter photo/ Mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley)

Damage was reported around the Ramada Inn on Wagner Ford Road after a tornado swept through Dayton, Ohio.

(Instagram photo/@yojoshmartinez)

"It’s the first time I’ve encountered a tornado. Luckily I’m far enough way where we only lost power," wrote an Instagram user who shared this image during a tornado that struck Dayton, Ohio.

(Twitter photo/@MichaelTope)

Debris is strewn around outside of an apartment complex in Dayton, Ohio, after a tornado struck the area late on May 27.

(Twitter photo/@MichaelTope)

A home in Dayton, Ohio, suffered damage after after at least one tornado struck the city late on May 27.

(Photo/Ohio Department of Transportation)

Damage is strewn across Interstate 75 north of Dayton, Ohio, on Monday night.

(Twitter photo/@MichaelTope)

The interior of a home suffered considerable damage following a tornado that struck Dayton, Ohio, on May 27.

(Twitter photo/@MichaelTope)

"Our home is destroyed...I never thought that this kind of thing would ever happen," tweeted Michael Tope in the early morning hours of May 28 after a tornado hit his house in Dayton, Ohio.

(Twitter photo/@EquateHD)

Trees cover the ground in a Dayton, Ohio, neighborhood in the early morning hours of May 28 after a tornado devastated the area late Monday night.

(Twitter photo/@ODOT_Dayton)

Trucks and crews with the Ohio Department of Transportation worked to clear debris off of Interstate 75 north of Dayton in the early morning hours of May 28, following a tornado strike.

(Instagram photo/@yojoshmartinez)

"It’s the first time I’ve encountered a tornado. Luckily I’m far enough way where we only lost power," wrote an Instagram user who shared this image during a tornado that struck Dayton, Ohio.

(Instagram photo/@dramatic_jellyfish)

A tornado left behind damage outside of a home in Brookville, Ohio, on Monday night.

(Instagram photo/@dramatic_jellyfish)

A tornado left behind damage outside of a home in Brookville, Ohio, on Monday night.

(Instagram photo/ @jordanlynnfreshour)

Instagram user captured the damage from the tornado that struck Dayton, Ohio, at Troy Pike north of Stanley on Tuesday morning.

(Instagram photo/Ellis Pilcher)

"Welp, I saw my first tornado last night," Instagram user Ellis Pilcher wrote in a post on Tuesday morning. "We are in Dayton and there were 6 tornadoes in Southern Ohio, one of them happened to come through our neighbourhood."

Twitter photo/@Niisonger)

The rubble of a destroyed church in Dayton, Ohio, is seen May 29, 2019.

(Twitter photo/@_dyt_replant)

Storm damage was visible throughout Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, May 28, after a destructive tornado trailed through the region on Monday night.

(Twitter photo/@_dyt_replant)

Storm damage was visible throughout Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, May 28, after a destructive tornado trailed through the region on Monday night.


“The official record uses observed, confirmed tornadoes, and we are still dealing with preliminary tornado counts for the current stretch,” Dr. Patrick Marsh, a warning coordination meteorologist at the SPC, said in an email to AccuWeather.

Marsh told The New York Times that "we are flirting in uncharted territory. Typically, you’d see a break of a day or two in between these long stretches, but we’re just not getting that right now.”

Marsh told AccuWeather he chose eight tornadoes per day because that is the minimum number of tornado local storm reports (LSRs) issued on any given day during this stretch. If the benchmark were set to 10 tornadoes, the 1980 streak would hold.

“If you want to use number of consecutive days with any confirmed tornado, that is 70 straight days, with July 1, 1991, being the last day in that stretch with a tornado,” Marsh said.

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Tornado reports have exploded this year after a couple years of low activity. As of Friday, the last day of May, the SPC has reported 1,008 tornadoes (preliminary) so far this year.

This month could end up with the most tornado reports of any recorded May, which is typically the most active month in terms of tornado activity.

“Looking at the data, before this month, May 2015 had the most tornado reports in any May with 414,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. "However, the current number of 516 is preliminary and it could be a little less after the season when the SPC will sort through the data for an actual total."

“Regardless, this May will be one of the top two most active tornado Mays (most likely No. 1) on record,” Pydynowski said.

The NWS reports that 38 people have died in 10 tornadoes in the United States this year, up from 10 fatalities in 2018. Seven of those deaths from this year's tornadoes have occurred in May. The majority of confirmed tornadoes this May are less intense, rated as EF0, EF1 and EF2s on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, but there have been a couple of very powerful twisters.

One of the strongest confirmed tornadoes this year was an EF4 tornado that killed 23 people in Lee County, Alabama, in early March. On Wednesday afternoon, the NWS officially rated the tornado that obliterated Linwood, Kansas, an EF4 storm with top wind speeds of 170 mph. No fatalities were reported in Linwood. A third EF4 tornado occurred in Dayton, Ohio, during the overnight hours of May 27.

may tornadoes graphic 226


Pydynowski added that there may be an increase in the number of tornado reports in recent years due to more people being out in the field and reporting tornadoes. There is a theory discussed among meteorologists that social media use may also play a role in this upward trend in tornado reports.

However, Marsh said that he does not feel comfortable “saying much about any trend owing to social media.”

According to Marsh, the nation just finished a stretch of well below normal tornado activity and had a corresponding decrease in the number of tornado LSRs. Thus, showing that LSRs are a relatively accurate indication of tornado activity, despite the potential inflation in the number of tornado reports due to more frequent observation and reporting.

About a decade ago, some preliminary work found that to approximate the number of observed tornadoes based on LSRs, one should multiply the LSR count by 0.85, Marsh said.

The recent uptick in tornado activity may be linked to a very volatile weather pattern across the U.S., with a large dip in the jet stream bringing unusually cool weather in the Southwest.

“At the same time, high pressure strengthened and was responsible for the record heat in the South,” Pydynowski said. “Storms riding the jet stream kept emerging from the Southwest and onto the Plains, clashing with warm and humid air and sparking the onslaught of the severe weather.”

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