Sunday Story: Severe Weather’s Shift

I hope you all are having a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Severe Weather’s Shift

This spring severe weather season has been kind to us on the Cumberland Plateau. In fact, there have only been a couple of tornadoes this season in all of Tennessee!

Severe weather shifts with time across the country. For instance, the main threat area can be found in the Deep South during late February to March. That is when the warmest of Gulf air is beginning to move northward.

As we move into the latter half of March and April, the threat shifts northward to Tennessee. We really have to be on guard during these months.

As we move into May, the threat generally shifts westward to the southern plains. This includes Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. In fact, the first week or two of May are notorious for significant severe weather outbreaks in those areas. Nearly every day in the first week of May is an anniversary for a major tornado somewhere across the southern plains.

As the spring wears on, the severe weather threat begins to shift northward to the northern plains. This is when areas north of Kansas begin to see significant severe weather. By then, the warm air from the Gulf makes it far enough north to give them storms.

An appealing thing to storm chasers is that the storms of the northern plains contain far less rainfall than storms in the southern plains or the South. Moisture is much more limited. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about rain hiding the tornadoes, which makes them much more photogenic.

Nowadays, we mainly have the “heat-of-the-day” summer afternoon storms to contend with here on the plateau. The main threat with these storms is lightning. Remember, if you’re close enough to hear thunder you’re close enough to be struck. As the National Weather Service says, “When thunder roars, go indoors!”

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