The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

January 13, 2014

SPC: 2013 was a quiet year for severe weather

OTTUMWA — If you think last year was relatively quiet for severe storms, there’s evidence to back you up.

The Storm Prediction Center’s maps for 2013 show the majority of the country was quieter than normal. Both tornado alley and it’s southern counterpart, dixie alley, had well below the normal numbers of tornado and severe thunderstorm watches.

Some of the storms that did hit were big, though. Moore, Okla., was slammed by a massive tornado that tore through town with winds estimated at 210 mph. It killed 24 people.

Most areas didn't see that kind of threat. How far off were things? Most of Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were at least nine watches shy of an average season. So were large parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

In fact, most of the country was at least four watches off a normal pace. Parts of Montana, South Dakota, Maine and Vermont saw more watches than normal, but that was about it.

Taken as a whole, the United States saw about 900 tornadoes in 2013. A normal year would see 1,345 and there were 1,900 as recently as 2004.

But there’s a catch when you talk about normal. Tracking and reporting have improved immensely in the past couple decades, especially with the advent of doppler radar. And good records only go back 50-60 years, which is a blink of the meteorological eye. So average is a word to be taken with a grain of salt when you talk about severe weather.

Iowa’s 30-year average is 47 tornadoes per year. In 2013, that number was only 26, and nearly two thirds of those tornadoes took place on just two days: June 12 and October 4.

There were no tornadoes in the immediate area in 2013. The most recent tornado in this part of the state was near Oskaloosa in 2012.

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