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We think of tornadoes as a spring and summer phenomena but all it takes is instability…weather instability that is and that is what winter tornadoes are all about.

Tornadoes form in unusually violent thunderstorms when there is sufficient (1) instability and (2) wind shear present in the lower atmosphere. Instability refers to unusually warm and humid conditions in the lower atmosphere, and possibly cooler than usual conditions in the upper atmosphere.

This past week, a massive storm system spawned dozens of tornadoes and caused extensive damage across a swath of the southern United States, from Texas to Florida. At least 19 deaths have been blamed on the storms so far, as emergency crews and first responders are still searching through wreckage for survivors.

The worst of the system appeared to have moved out to sea on January 23, as residents who sheltered from the storm returned to their damaged homes to assess the damage and salvage what they can.

If you live in a tornado area or region, pay attention to these weather changes and be aware that tornadoes can strike at anytime of the year.  It just requires a bit of weather instability.

Remember tornado safety rules:

  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
  • If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
  • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.

This link has some great images of this winter tornado storm.