Sunday Story: An active month of May

The month of May was one of the most active for severe weather that our country has seen in 41 years. Thankfully, the Cumberland Plateau was spared from this outbreak of severe weather.

In the last two weeks of May there were nearly 800 tornado warnings issued across the country, with many of those being issued across the central U.S., Ohio Valley, and Northeast.

So why was the plateau spared?

High pressure was in control of our area for those two weeks. The center of that high pressure was located near the northern Gulf Coast. The clockwise flow around that high steered plenty of warm, moist air toward the Plains, while leading to hot and dry conditions for us.

Air underneath high pressure sinks, which suppresses vertical cloud development. Clouds develop when air rises into our cold atmosphere and cools and condenses. If the air is sinking, the air will tend to dry out and heat up. That’s basically why we were so hot and dry the last two weeks of May.

Of the nearly 800 tornado warnings issued, as many as 250 actual tornadoes may have come from those warnings. Two of the tornadoes have been identified as EF-4 tornadoes, making them the only two violent tornadoes of 2019.

Meanwhile, the western U.S. has been unusually cold. Some ski resorts even had to reopen in the mountains due to late-season snowfall. The jet stream dipped down over the western U.S. and then rose up and over the eastern U.S., creating an airmass battle zone through the central U.S.

With all the bad storms, the death toll has been remarkably low. Much of the credit for that must be given to the National Weather Service, the Storm Prediction Center, Emergency managers, broadcast meteorologist and EMS folks. What would do without them?

5-day outlook (9)

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