A rough spring for the central U.S.

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Weather conditions for 2019 have already been “extreme” across North Idaho and the rest of the world. We had the record snows in February and the driest first half of May in history before the soaking rains moved into the area late last month.

The hardest-hit portion of the country has been across the Great Plains and the Midwest. Flooding rains have sent parts of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers over their banks and many farmers are still reporting their fields to be either covered with mud or “underwater.”

In addition to the record rainfall, there have been a number of tornado outbreaks east of the Rockies this year. According to data from Wikipedia, on January 19, 10 tornadoes were confirmed over the Deep South that caused significant damage in parts of Alabama. And, it wasn’t just the U.S. that experienced severe weather in January. In the southwestern portion of Turkey, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, 4 tornadoes damaged homes. On Jan. 28, an EF4 touched down near Havana, Cuba, causing extensive property damage.

Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia were hit by 8 tornadoes on Feb. 23-24. One twister destroyed homes and businesses in Columbus, Miss.

On March 3, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina experienced an outbreak of 41 tornadoes. One twister destroyed a town in Alabama called Beauregard. The twister was rated an EF4 and was the strongest to hit the U.S. since the one in Canton, Texas, on April 29. 2017.

A second tornado outbreak to hit the U.S. this year happened from March 12-14. Thirty-eight twisters were reported that included New Mexico, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. In other parts of the world, on March 13, an EF2 was reported in western Germany near the border of Belgium. A large and destructive tornado moved through Nepal on March 31.

April was a tough month for severe weather in the central U.S. as two more outbreaks were reported. There were 70 tornadoes that were reported from Texas to Louisiana from April 13-15. The southern U.S. Great Plains, the Southeast and then into the Northeast had a combined total of 94 tornadoes causing widespread damage. Forty of those tornadoes were seen in Mississippi.

Only a few days later, another outbreak hit the southern U.S. Great Plains and into the southeastern U.S. The largest was an EF3 in Virginia that damaged or destroyed many homes. There was a total of 94 twisters from that system.

On April 24-25, Louisiana was hit again with severe conditions along with parts of Texas. A few areas in Indiana also reported tornadic activity. There was a total of 17 tornadoes from this outbreak. On April 30, areas from Texas to Missouri reported 41 twisters.

One of the most publicized tornado outbreaks occurred last month from May 17-29. During that time, there was a record 12 consecutive days with at least eight twisters which broke the record of 11 days set back in June of 1980. The Storm Prediction Center received over 500 reports of tornadoes with over 260 of them confirmed. Widespread damage was reported from Kansas to Ohio. And, there was a report of a tornado in Chile on May 31.

According to the National Weather Service, there was a tornado that hit near Blackfoot in Bingham County in eastern Idaho on May 23.

The average number of tornadoes across the U.S. each year is 1,253. As of May 31, there were nearly 750 twisters reported across the country.

Tornado intensities are measured using the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with an EF5 being the most destructive. This scale was implemented in early 2007 and has the same design as the original Fujita scale, which included ranges from an F0 to an F5.

Idaho averages 3 tornadoes per year. One of the worst severe weather and tornado outbreaks ever seen in our region occurred on May 31, 1997, across eastern Washington and northern Idaho. On that day, four F1 twisters hit Stevens and Spokane counties with one F1 tornado striking Athol in northern Idaho and an F0 spotted near Lewiston. Severe thunderstorms also produced hail up to 2-3 inches in diameter, very heavy rainfall and wind gusts of over 80 mph. Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries.

An estimated record 10 tornadoes touched down in Washington and Idaho on May 31, 1997. In Kootenai County, an F2 was reported, one of the largest ever seen in Idaho. An F1 was reported in Jefferson County.

In terms of our local weather, conditions are looking dry through Thursday, then we could see some shower activity late in the week. As we move further into June, conditions are likely to be a little drier than normal. Coeur d’Alene’s average precipitation for this month is 1.93 inches.

For the upcoming summer season, Cliff and I do see another dry summer season, however it probably won’t be as rainless as the ones over the past two years based on the projected sea-surface temperature patterns.

As is often the case, July should be our driest month with wetter conditions expected later in August and September. Hopefully, this will shorten our fire season in Coeur d’Alene and across much of the Inland Northwest.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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