Guest Author - Anita Grace Simpson
Tornadoes are small but extremely intense areas of high winds and lowered barometric pressure that form in the context of thunderstorms. The average tornado lasts only 4 minutes, but during that time it may do considerable damage and even cause fatalities.
During 2007, tornadoes killed at least 127 people worldwide, with almost two-thirds(80) of these deaths occurring in the United States. Thirteen states saw at least one tornado-related fatality over the course of the year. These states were Kansas and Georgia(4); Texas(3); Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana, and Michigan(2); and New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Carolina.
Deaths from tornadoes typically result from damage to buildings, especially weak structures such as mobile homes. People who live in mobile homes should have an emergency plan with at least two solid structures available nearby to which they can go when tornadoes threaten. They should not wait until a tornado warning has been issued; by the time the warning is sent out, the tornado could be over their home. If possible, evacuation should occur when a tornado watch is issued, or at least when a thunderstorm is near. Since 52 of the 80 U.S. tornado deaths were related to mobile homes, it is essential that mobile home residents understand this danger and plan for it.
The year 2007 saw the first tornado outbreaks (and fatalities) in early January. This illustrates that, although spring and fall are the most common times for tornadoes, these deadly storms can occur in any season of the year. January tornadoes developed in the U.S., Germany, and Poland. Tornado deaths also occurred during February (22) and March(27), when major tornado outbreaks included one in the Central and Southern U.S. with 57 confirmed tornadoes (February 28-March 2) and another in the Central U.S. with 81 tornadoes (March 28-31).
In April, 2007, at least 141 tornadoes formed, including one in Mexico and another in Siberia. On May 4, a massive severe weather system developed over the middle of the U.S., and over the next two days, 123 confirmed tornadoes spread destruction across Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas. A particularly violent tornado, rated EF5 (highest intensity) on the new Enhanced Fujita scale, almost totally destroyed the towns of Greensburg and Mackville, Kansas, and killed 12 people. By the end of May, 282 tornadoes had been reported in the U.S., along with 1 in Romania, 2 in Northern Ireland, 1 in Ireland, 2 in Poland, and 1 in Chad.
During June, 149 tornadoes were reported in the United States along with 2 in Vietnam, 9 in the United Kingdom, and at least 8 in Canada (including Canada’s first F5 tornado). Strong tornadoes in Vietnam on June 7 and 13 killed 3 people and caused heavy damage. In the U.S., no tornado fatalities occurred in June or July. At least 50 tornadoes were reported in the U.S. in July, but most of them were weak and did not cause extensive damage. On July 13 a tornado in China killed 14 people, while tornadoes in New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and Poland produced damage but no deaths.
In the month of August 77 tornadoes were reported in the U.S. including a rare tornado in New York City. Columbia also experienced its first tornado since 2001, in the capital of Bogota. One fatality occurred during a tornado in North Dakota; in addition, the Philippines had one tornado death and China had 11 tornado fatalities in conjunction with Typhoon Sepat. September was a relatively quiet month for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in general. Only 58 tornadoes were reported in the U.S. and no deaths occurred.
Confirmed tornadoes in the U.S. during October numbered 68, with 47 more reported but unconfirmed. Three tornadoes, one in Missouri and two in Michigan, caused five deaths total. A supercell thunderstorm in New South Wales, Australia that occurred on October 26 spawned a multiple tornado. This unusual phenomenon results in several funnels descending as part of the same storm cell. It caused moderate damage but no reported injuries.
November and December were quiet tornado months in the U.S. In November, only 7 tornadoes were reported. Surprisingly, a second tornado developed in the city of Bogota, Columbia. At least 10 tornadoes developed in the U.S. during December, primarily in the Deep South. One person was killed in Georgia.
How did 2007 compare to previous years? According to the Storm Prediction Center, the number of tornadoes that developed in the U.S. was lower than the 3-year-average, but the number of killer tornadoes and the number of fatalities were each slightly higher than average.