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Ohio ties its record for most tornadoes in a year. And it’s only June

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So far this year, tornadoes in Ohio have killed three people and caused thousands, if not millions, of dollars in property damage.

Now 2024 1992 is the worst year for tornadoes in the Buckeye State. And it’s only June.

“It was brutal,” said Brandon Peloquin, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, which covers central and southwestern Ohio.

Severe weather that produced tornadoes began in February of this year, Peloquin said. “It feels like things haven’t really calmed down since then.”

What is Ohio’s record for most tornadoes in a year?

To date, the worst year for tornadoes in Ohio was 1992, when 62 tornadoes touched down, Peloquin said.

The strongest that year was an EF4 tornado that struck Van Wert County in western Ohio on February 18. With winds of 166 to 200 mph, the tornado was on the ground for 2.8 miles and caused six injuries but no fatalities. According to Tornado Talk, it destroyed a house, a mobile home and two cars and damaged nine homes.

What’s causing all the tornadoes this year?

As weather patterns transitioned from winter to spring, Peloquin said the jet stream — the air currents high in the atmosphere flowing from west to east that direct weather systems — aligned just right to guide multiple strong systems through the Ohio Valley.

The jet stream kept Ohio on the warm side of the low fronts, Peloquin said, creating southerly winds that brought moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico. High humidity combined with the energy created by wind shear and the rapid movement of air from low to high in the atmosphere (instability and buoyancy) are the ingredients that can lead to severe weather, he said.

Is climate change a factor?

“The data certainly indicates that the climate is changing,” Peloquin said. “It’s really hard to tie climate to a single severe weather event.”

He said it’s less about climate change and more about the position of the jet stream.

What about El Niño or La Niña?

El Niño and La Niña can influence severe weather, Peloquin said, making the season more or less active by shifting the jet stream.

El Niño, which brings warmer water in the Pacific Ocean, moves the jet stream south as it blows across North America, the National Ocean Service said. This will bring warmer and drier conditions to the northern United States and Canada, and wetter conditions along the Gulf Coast and the Southeast.

La Niña is the opposite. It creates colder water in the Pacific Ocean, causing the jet stream to move north. This will lead to wetter and colder conditions over Ohio.

Currently, Peloquin says neither is strong, although there is a chance of a La Niña from late summer to fall.

Have the number of tornadoes in Ohio increased in recent years?

According to NWS data, the number of tornadoes in the state fluctuates from year to year, but there is no clear trend. In 2023, Ohio saw 60 tornadoes, while in 2022 there were 27. And that was a decrease from 2021, when there were 31. There were 49 tornadoes in 2019. And in the year 2015, there were only seven twisters in the state.

“These things go in cycles,” Peloquin said. “We will have active years; we will have less active years.”

It has been an “active” tornado season so far in 2024

Ohio has endured several strong storms that spawned tornadoes so far this year, including a handful of storms that popped up before tornado season officially started in April. Here are some of them:

“It’s been a very active year,” Peloquin said.

When is tornado season in Ohio?

According to the National Weather Service, tornado season in Ohio runs from April through June. However, tornadoes can occur in any month of the year.

Ohio averages 21 tornadoes per year, calculated based on 30 years of data, Peloquin said. Tornado season typically peaks in June and tapers off into the fall. Fall is usually a quiet season for the climate, he said.

Be prepared for severe weather

Peloquin said high-impact weather events have become more common over the past 10 to 15 years. It is important that everyone is prepared for it.

He recommends having multiple ways to receive weather alerts. Provide ways to find out if watches are being issued. Know what to do if a tornado warning is issued: Take shelter in a sturdy structure, preferably in the basement, and wait for the storm to pass.

‘Go underground. That is the safest place when a warning is given,” he said.

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