Cincinnati is no stranger to deadly April tornadoes. Could an outbreak happen again?

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Every April, Greater Cincinnati remembers two deadly anniversaries.

The tornado outbreaks in April 1974 that hit Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and the Blue Ash and Montgomery tornado in April 1999 killed hundreds and destroyed huge swathes of our communities.

The two storm systems are etched in the minds of the community, but April is only the start of tornado season in Greater Cincinnati.

Since 1999, the National Weather Service in Wilmington has recorded four April tornadoes. During that same time period, there were 14 tornadoes in May and nine in June. Cincinnati has seen tornadoes in every month, according to the Wilmington office.

The National Weather Service has predicted above normal temperature and above normal precipitation, but there’s no way of predicting the number of tornadoes we could see.

“There is no such thing as a long-range severe-storm or tornado threat outlook. There are simply too many small-scale variables involved which we cannot reliably measure or model weeks or months ahead of time,” the NOAA Storm Prediction Center said.

So what about April? The month isn’t even halfway through.

The record for most tornadoes in any month, since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950, was set in April 2011, when SPC data recorded 817 tornadoes.

The deadliest tornado day in the U.S. was the outbreak on April 27, 2011, the SPC said. That day set a record with about 316 people killed

“Behind that, on April 3, 1974, the main day of the two-day ‘Super Outbreak,’ tornadoes killed 310 people,” the SPC said.

That one we know all too well.

During the Super Outbreak, at least 148 tornadoes tore across 13 states, leaving more than 300 deaths and millions of dollars in damage.

In Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, there were 167 deaths and some of the worst wreckage.

The 1974 outbreak holds the record for the most F5 tornadoes in a single day, with seven.

Could an outbreak like April 1974 happen again?

The SPC said it’s rare, but they don’t know how rare.

“An outbreak like that arguably has only happened once since any tornado records have been kept,” according to the SPC. “There is no way to know if the odds of such events are one in every 50 years, 10 years or 1,000 years, since we just do not have the long climatology of reasonably accurate tornado numbers to use.”

by Sarah Brookbank (2019, Apr 11) Cincinnati Enquirer

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Kyrie Wagner