From floods to wildfires, 2016 featured several weather disasters, but a big, deadly tornado outbreak was not one of them.
Tornadoes killed only 17 Americans this year, the fewest in 30 years and the second fewest since accurate records began in 1950. In 1986, 15 died, which is the least on record, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
(Unofficial records from before 1950 show only one other year with so few deaths: 1910, with 12.)
The number of tornadoes was also well below average this year: 901 reported through Dec. 27. An average year sees 1,061 tornadoes, according to data from the prediction center. This made it the third-quietest year in the past 10 years.
“We didn’t see one of the big, classic tornado outbreaks,” according to Patrick Marsh, warning coordination meteorologist at the prediction center. There was no overarching meteorological reason for the quiet year, he said, just noting that “we got into a pattern in which we didn’t get all the ingredients coming together.”
El Niño dominated U.S. weather early in the year, and deadly tornadoes spun up in the Southeast in January and February. That’s a typical location for twisters during El Niño years, Marsh said.
Another unusual statistic this year was that February was the second-most active month for tornadoes, with 138 reported, Marsh said. While May was the busiest month, as is typical, February is usually among the quietest.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Doyle Rice