On Wednesday night, tornadoes ripped through north Texas as part of a weather system that killed at least six and injured more than 100 others. At least 10 tornadoes touched down in the area overnight, beginning with a storm in a Habitat for Humanity community in the Granbury area. Most of the 120 homes in the neighborhood were destroyed.
The damage in the area is very extensive, with over 200,000 homes out of power and seven people missing. However, the damage could have been much worse if officials hadn’t used the Code Red emergency alert system to warn citizens with sirens of the impending tornadoes.
Tornadoes are formed as an extreme result of a large thunderstorm known as a supercell, where warm and cold air combine. A supercell thunderstorm is a severe weather system and can last much longer than a normal thunderstorm. The cold air temperature begins to drop as the warm air temperature rises, and the warm air twists to form a funnel cloud. Warning signs for a tornado formation include the funnel cloud itself and the deep green color in the sky that appears during formation.
Most tornadoes form in May, but the more severe ones form earlier on in April. However, the further north in the U.S. that you go, the later the peak tornado season is, because it takes longer for those areas to warm up.
Tornadoes are most common in the Central United States, where the flat land allows the cold, dry air from the North to meet the warm, moist tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico, making the perfect breeding ground for these storms. However, tornadoes most frequently form in an area known as “Tornado Alley,” an area that spans from southern Nebraska, through Kansas and Oklahoma, to northern Texas, where this latest series of tornadoes occurred.
However, even with all of these factors making northern Texas an area extremely prone to tornadic activity, the National Weather Service did not predict any tornadoes for Wednesday night, instead issuing a severe thunderstorm warning with a warning for hail that could grow to the size of golf balls. The reasoning for this was that the NWS believed it would be “too cool” for tornadoes to form. It was only until later in the evening, when a trough of low pressure strengthened in the late afternoon and moved further South than expected, that the NWS predictions changed.
The location of northern Texas within Tornado Alley also leaves open the possibility of another tornado, or several tornadoes, occurring within the area over the course of the month. It’s important that if you, or your loved ones, are in at-risk areas for tornadic activity, to stay safe and stay informed during this time.