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4 dangerous weather threats to watch out for during spring

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer

Many think of spring as a blissful time of the year when flowers bloom, but for some parts of the United States, it spawns the year's most dangerous weather.

For instance, spring is when there is the highest potential for damaging tornadoes, among other threats.

Here are four different ways weather can wreak havoc during the spring.

Spring thunderstorms can produce strong tornadoes

Severe thunderstorms are hazardous during the spring in the U.S. because there is potential for damaging winds, tornadoes and flooding rainfall.

AccuWeather meteorologists agree tornadoes are by far the most extreme event in the spring. They are also the most prominent during this time. The United States has a unique setup that creates favorable conditions for tornado development.

"The risk is greatest in the spring due to the potential for large contrasts of dry, moist and cold air," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

Severe Weather

Destroyed homes are seen in this aerial photo after a tornado tore through a neighborhood. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Those come together to produce some of the most violent weather conditions on Earth.

"If these ingredients come together quickly, there can be multiple tornadoes and a higher potential for EF4 and EF5 tornadoes, the most deadly and destructive tornadoes," Kottlowski said.

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"Several tornadoes in one area can lead to tremendous damage and lives taken," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. "Isolated tornadoes runs with just a few miles of coverage. Outbreaks can be over 200 miles of risk area," he said.

Snowstorms can cause disruptions to travel

In the early spring, snowstorms are still a potential extreme weather problem.

"In the past some of the biggest snowstorms for cities like Denver, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and even Chicago have occurred during the early spring," Kottlowski said.

APTOPIX Spring Snow

A woman walks with an umbrella during a snowstorm, Monday, March 23, 2015, in Niles, Ill. Spring snow hit just in time for the commute and could bring as much as 5 inches of snow in some parts of the Chicago area. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

As March and April are transition months, extreme warmth can often be followed by extreme cold. The contrasts between warm and cold help fuel powerful spring storms.

Spring flooding can be a significant threat to lives, property

Flooding is not an event to be forgotten in the spring. During spring's warmup, rainfall and melting snow can very easily cause large amounts of runoff in a short period of time.

While severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are the biggest threat in spring, significant flood events can occur due to rapid snow melt, ice jams or just from heavy rain events, according to Pastelok.

Machine in water

Floods trapping cars. (Scherbinator/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), flooding causes about $2 billion in damage each year and kills an average of 165 people.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) outlines spring flooding in particular due to its high risks.

FEMA explained how spring brings heavy rains which can lead to severe flooding by oversaturating the ground, overfilling storm drains or causing rivers to spill over their banks or levees.

Gusty winds can trigger dust storms

One other extreme weather event is dust storms and firestorms. The strongest winds occur during March and April due to the development of big and powerful surface storms developing in the lee of the Rockies then moving east.

"If an area is very dry or drought stricken and experiences these strong winds, dust storms can develop," Kottlowski said.

Dust storms can turn into firestorms if accidental or careless burning takes place.

Arizona  Dust Storm

Arizona Dust Storm (LeonardFarrell/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Firestorms in the Plains can consume hundreds of square miles of grassland and forests.

"If houses and buildings are in the path of these fast-moving firestorms, total destruction can take place, but unlike tornadoes, firestorms can be prevented," Kottlowski said.

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