Oklahoma on pace for latest start to tornado season on record

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
May 01, 2018, 2:04:48 PM EDT

Old Man Winter's reluctance to "give it up" is largely responsible for the lack of tornadoes counted across part of Tornado Alley so far this year.

While tornadoes have occurred in each month of the year so far over the United States, there has not yet been a single tornado confirmed in Oklahoma and Kansas in 2018.

Respectively, Kansas and Oklahoma average about 13 and 14 tornadoes per year during April. From January through April, Kansas and Oklahoma both average close to 19 tornadoes.

Prior to 2018, the latest start to the tornado season in Oklahoma was on April 26, 1962. This means there were no tornadoes in January, February, March and nearly the first four weeks of April in 1962.

Static Lack of Tornadoes

April 2018 has also joined two other years when no tornadoes occurred during the month in Oklahoma. These years were in 1987 and 1988.

"In Kansas, the latest occurrence of the first tornado is May 28, 1980," according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Eric Schminke.

"Second and third place dates for the latest first Kansas tornado of the season are May 26, 1967 and May 16, 1962," Schminke said.

Daily tornado records date back to 1950.

The string of days without tornadoes could end during the first week of May in both Oklahoma and Kansas.

On April 13, there were a few tornado reports (preliminary) in Missouri and near the borders of Texas and Arkansas. However, these tornadoes occurred outside of Oklahoma and Kansas state borders.

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Frequent rounds of chilly air from Canada, thanks to a persistent southward dip in the jet stream over the eastern U.S., helped to keep temperature and humidity surges to a minimum, according to AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Richard Schraeger.

"We didn't have an active southern storm track, instead most storms traveled along the northern half of the nation," Schraeger said.

The storms were far removed from any moisture and warmth in the Deep South and brought many rounds of snow to the Northern states.

"Extensive drought over the southern Plains has played a significant role as well," Schraeger said.

Severe thunderstorms need the right blend of warmth and moisture near the ground and cool and dry air aloft, combined with strong shifting winds at different levels of the atmosphere. Large southern storm systems tend to bring these conditions together during March and April.

"Wichita, Kansas, is on track for its fourth coolest April since records have been kept since 1888," Schminke said.

As of April 24, Wichita is averaging 7 degrees Fahrenheit below average for the month.

Below-average April temperatures have extended across much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation, including some double-digit temperature departures over the Upper Midwest.

Will there be an uptick in severe weather, tornadoes?

A widespread severe thunderstorm event, including the risk of tornadoes, may unfold in Oklahoma, Kansas and other parts of the Plains, South and Midwest during the first few days of May.

The large-scale risk of severe weather would coincide with a surge of warmth and humidity over the Central and Eastern states as a storm swings east of the Rockies.

During May, the potential for tornadoes typically expands northward and eastward as warm, humid air gains more ground.

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