Are tornadoes in January normal? The answer to that questions is, not really. A large section of the central and Southeast United States is facing an unusual spell of tornado watches and dangerous thunderstorms; the cause is an approaching cold front clashing with unusually warm air. As far north as New York City, temperatures are expected to reach 60 degrees on Wednesday; unseasonably warm temperatures for the Northeast this time of year.
Tornado warnings were first issued in the southern states on Tuesday night with tornado touch downs reported in Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. On Wednesday morning, a tornado was reported in Adairsville, GA. As meteorologist Bill Bunting of the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said, "It's a little unusual. We don't see this every winter with this kind of warmth preceding a storm system."
The unseasonably warm temperatures, and the dramatic shifts in temperature have been felt around the country throughout the week and are at the root of the cause. On Monday, Kansas City reached 74 degrees, only to fall to 28 degrees on Tuesday night. Chicago saw Tuesday temperatures in the 60s. New Yorkers Wednesday woke up to temperatures in the 60s, after never seeing the thermometer rise above 30 last week.
Tornadoes are most common in the spring, and sometimes fall, months when warm and cold seasons are in combat for control. While January tornadoes are not unheard of, this is certainly unseasonably early.
For live updates on Wednesday's storm path, see here.