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Deadly Tornado Outbreak Explained

By Joe Joyce, WBZ Meteorologist
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Fallen trees and destroyed homes litter Hickory Folk Road on April 17 in Gloucester, Virginia. A tornado that barreled across Gloucester Saturday evening cut a mile-wide swath of destruction about 7 1/2 miles long from Coke to the Mathews County line, leaving three residents dead and more than 60 injured, said Sheriff Steve Gentry. (credit: Jay Paul/Getty Images)

Fallen trees and destroyed homes litter Hickory Folk Road on April 17 in Gloucester, Virginia. A tornado that barreled across Gloucester Saturday evening cut a mile-wide swath of destruction about 7 1/2 miles long from Coke to the Mathews County line, leaving three residents dead and more than 60 injured, said Sheriff Steve Gentry. (credit: Jay Paul/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — One of the largest tornado outbreaks in recent history occurred this past weekend with close to 200 tornadoes moving from the Plains to the Gulf to the Carolinas. At least 40 people died in the course of three days, making it also one of the most deadly.

Accuweather Meteorologist Henry Margusity fears there is more to come. “This tornado season is not done. It is not done by far. I think before this is said and done we are going to have a record amount of tornadoes — exceeding 2008.”

WBZ meteorologist Joe Joyce reports.

2008 was a record breaking year for the United States producing more than 2,134 tornadoes. We are certainly on pace this year with 611 tornadoes to date. The similarities of tornado activity between these two years are striking. Both occurred in a La Nina year. The cool water from the Pacific is helping supply the cold into the overall pattern.

“It’s so cold across the north, and it’s warming up across the south. These two air masses are really beginning to fight it out,” says Margusity.

Last year it was too warm to storm. Above normal temperatures extended across the east into Canada. A cool Gulf of Mexico helped to suppress storm development. This year, the Gulf is much warmer. It is pushing the warmth and humidity into the Plains where it is clashing with lingering cold air supplied from Canada which still has snow on the ground.

Another round of severe weather is occurring in the Plains Tuesday with the potential for more storms through Tornado Alley through the weekend. Until this set up breaks meteorologists will likely be tracking severe storms for many weeks to come.

May is considered the peak of tornado season for the nation. New England’s storm season usually waits until summer once the warmer temperatures and humidity returns. Though no tornadoes occurred in the Commonwealth in 2010, Massachusetts typically averages three tornadoes a year.

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