Social media lit up with bewilderment (and typical television-induced anger) when nearly one-quarter of a million people in the Houston suburbs fell under a tornado warning on Thanksgiving Day.
A low-pressure system moving along the northern Gulf Coast triggered a threat for severe thunderstorms across the northern Gulf Coast on Thanksgiving. Some of the severe storms began rotating, prompting that tornado warning in Houston that preempted television shows and sent thousands scurrying from the kitchen to their safe places.
Tornado warnings popping up on Thanksgiving is an ever-present reminder that severe weather “season” in the United States is a giant misnomer, and that dangerous thunderstorms can pop up any day of the year.
While there’s a huge uptick in severe weather during the spring and early summer months, the south is particularly susceptible to rounds of severe thunderstorms during the late fall and early winter, as well.
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Thunderstorms are common during the spring because low-pressure systems often spin up as the encroaching warmth of impending summer clashes against the stubborn chill of a retreating winter. This same process works in reverse during the fall months, sparking a jump in severe storm activity in November and December.
Some of the most significant tornadoes in recent memory touched down during the cold season. December 10, 2021, saw multiple destructive tornadoes touch down in western Kentucky, including one EF-4 that tore a path measuring more than 100 miles long. A significant tornado struck downtown Mobile, Alabama, on Christmas Day in 2012.
It’s important to keep a close eye on the forecast year-round. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issues daily severe weather outlooks up to eight days in advance.
Local National Weather Service offices issue severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings when there’s an immediate danger over the next few minutes. Smartphones automatically receive free emergency alerts when a tornado warning is issued for the device’s location. These push alerts save countless lives every year.
Unfortunately, lots of folks deactivate them after one ill-timed flood or child abduction alert. Please make sure tornado alerts are activated on your phone—and you have at least one or two reliable weather apps that also notify you of severe weather alerts. The buzzing and chirping may be annoying, but these warnings can help you stay safe even when you’re tuned out.
The SPC’s latest outlook has several areas under the risk for severe weather through the end of November, including a potentially potent risk for severe thunderstorms across parts of the Mid-South on Tuesday the 29th.
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