While the peak months for tornadoes are April to June, several destructive storm systems have already caused damage across parts of the southern U.S., including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
This year is predicted to be an active tornado year, and several outbreaks occurred even before Meteorological Spring on March 1. This is attributed, in part, to a waning La Niña. “During the La Nina and especially when it is transitioning into a neutral phase, the potential for increased severe weather events and above-average tornado activity is in place.”
(Photo: Tornado damage in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana on March 23, 2022. Source: NOLAReady via Twitter)
Popular Science magazine says, “The new predictions put the number of tornadoes for 2022 at around 1,350 to 1,475, above a yearly average of 1,253. April is supposed to be particularly busy with a predicted 200 to 275 storms (last year in April there were just 73). But the big takeaway is that they’ll likely hit places outside of what’s traditionally been known as ‘Tornado Alley.’”
Central plains states like Oklahoma still have tornadoes but researchers have discovered that statistically, tornado activity is shifting to the southeastern parts of the U.S.
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, April 18
Reflecting on tornado recovery in Louisiana
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, April 11
The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed EF-0 tornado damage in Eutaw in Greene County after storms swept through the state on April 13. Around 110 people were displaced, and finding housing for them is proving challenging in the poor, rural county.
A storm system trigged tornado warnings across central Alabama on March 30. Power lines were downed, trees uprooted and buildings damaged. One person was injured, according to University of Montevallo police. The NWS in Birmingham upgraded one of the tornadoes, which tracked through parts of Perry, Bibb and Shelby counties, as an EF-3 with 145 mph winds. That tornado was one of 20 confirmed during the round of severe weather that spanned March 30 and 31.
Severe weather on March 22 led to flooding and roads washing out in Calhoun, Talladega and Chilton counties in Alabama. There was tornado damage to the roofs of several homes in the area of Toxey in western Alabama. In Hale County, about 20 homes were damaged based on early assessments.
Since the start of 2022, the NWS has confirmed 20 tornadoes in the state. The NWS confirmed that four EF-1 tornadoes hit Arkansas on April 11. A woman was killed in Rison when a tree toppled onto her home on April 13.
On March 30, a tornado hit the cities of Springdale and Johnson leaving seven people injured. Following a survey of the damage, the NWS rated the tornado an EF-3. Damage was extensive in Springdale including to an elementary school gymnasium and a warehouse. Cleanup efforts continued the week of April 4. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on April 15 that the state would provide financial aid to people affected by the Springdale tornado.
Five tornadoes touched down across several counties in Arkansas on March 6. There were four EF-1 tornadoes and one EF-2 tornado. The EF-2 storm reached winds of 120 mph, and traveled 11 miles from Izard County to Sharp County, destroying a mobile home and injuring several people. The longest EF-1 was in Pope County and traveled 15.6 miles, damaging more than a dozen homes.
At least one tornado was confirmed in the Florida Panhandle following storms that moved across the south on April 6.
At least two people were killed when a severe storm damaged homes in the Florida Panhandle on March 31.
According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in northwestern Florida, a tornado there caused damage about seven miles outside Chipley.
A storm system in Bay County produced hail, wind damage and tornadoes on March 18. In Panama City, a tornado has been rated as an EF-2, although it was very short and on the ground for less than half a mile. The storm lifted at least one house right off the ground and moved it six feet, with the residents still inside.
Five tornadoes were reported and two tornadoes were observed around Valdosta on April 6.
In Bryan County, at least one person was killed when a tornado is believed to have hit the area. Following the storms, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on April 6, freeing up state resources for storm recovery and response efforts.
The NWS determined an EF-4 tornado hit northern Bryan County on April 5, with winds estimated at 185 mph. This was only the 11th EF-4 tornado in Georgia since 1950.
The NWS confirmed that eight tornadoes touched down on April 13 in Louisville and around the state. Four tornadoes reached at least EF-1 intensity, and four were recorded at EF-0. Several homes in Louisville’s Glenmary subdivision were damaged. Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher declared a state of emergency on April 14 to speed recovery efforts in areas affected by the storms. The tornadoes also sparked multiple fire incidents in the Louisville area.
The NWS confirmed five tornadoes touched down around Louisville on March 18. None of the tornadoes were rated above EF-1, however, some damage was reported, and thousands of residents were without power.
A tornado in northwest Louisiana, close to the Texan border, left people trapped in their homes and damaged buildings on April 13. No injuries were reported. According to the NWS, the tornado was EF-0.
The state experienced another round of severe storms the week of April 4. In Webster Parish, a man died on April 5 when his car crashed into a downed tree, state police said.
On March 30, strong winds “overturned semitrailers, peeled the roof from a mobile home, sent a tree crashing into a home and knocked down power lines, according to weather service forecasters, who didn’t immediately confirm any tornadoes in the state.”
Parts of New Orleans and the metro area were hit by tornadoes on March 22. Across the Mississippi River from New Orleans’ French Quarter there was extensive damage in the town of Gretna in Jefferson Parish, including the neighborhood of Terrytown and the west bank area of Orleans Parish known as Algiers.
The system then moved across the Mississippi River, hitting the Lower Ninth ward of New Orleans and the town of Arabi in St. Bernard parish. The storm moved back into the Lower Ninth Ward and Orleans Parish before crossing the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway into New Orleans east before finally dissipating.
The most damaging tornado has been rated as at least an EF-3, reminiscent of the EF-3 in 2017 that hit some of the same areas. Many of these neighborhoods were also affected by Hurricane Ida on Aug. 29, 2021. Nola.com says, “National Weather Service is still doing its full assessment but An EF3 rating for tornado damage means the winds were spinning between 136-165 mph, fast enough to overturn a train or tear the roof off of a house.”
There are reports of houses being lifted and moved by the wind, including one with a young girl on a respirator who uses a wheelchair. She was rescued by neighbors after her parents escaped from the home. A survey of 1,410 homes found 41 homes were destroyed, 93 had major damage, 162 had minor damage and 912 were in the area but unaffected.
A tornado across Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany parish near Lacombe has been given a tentative rating of an EF-1. Although that tornado was 100-yards wide and was on the ground for 12 miles, only minor damage has been reported.
The death of a 25-year-old man in Arabi and several injuries have been reported. Dozens of homes were destroyed or damaged, but a full assessment has not yet been made. As of 3 p.m. CDT on March 23, there were 4,500 customers without power across the state, the majority in St. Bernard Parish.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency for the parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and St. Tammany.
The NWS in Jackson confirmed that 93 tornadoes had hit Mississippi as of May 5, 2022.
One confirmed tornado caused some structure and tree damage near the town of Newton, Mississippi, and Highway I-20 during the severe weather that swept across the southern U.S. the week of April 4.
The month of March has been an active one for the state. Since March 22, there were 49 tornadoes reported compared to 50 tornadoes in all of March, April and May in 2021.
Two confirmed tornadoes damaged homes and businesses and downed power lines on March 30. The Mississippi Senate suspended its work as sirens blared during a tornado watch in Jackson. Areas near McClain appeared to be struck by a tornado based on storm chaser reports and Toomsuba was also hit by a tornado.
The NWS updated its tornado count to 27 from the March 22 storms. The largest of the March 22 tornadoes was rated an EF-3 and struck Damascus in Kemper County. Preliminary reports show that 252 homes sustained damage in 16 counties. In Hinds County, Mississippi, storms tore down trees and power lines, and the weather prompted Mississippi State University in Starkville to switch to remote classes.
So far this year, the NWS has confirmed 31 tornadoes in the state, with 19 already in the month of May.
In the town of Seminole, around 60 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, a tornado damaged structures and led to power outages on May 4. The NWS said it found damage from an EF-2 tornado in Seminole. No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported. Another tornado caused damage to homes and a school in Monroe.
The NWS in Tulsa said EF-1 damage occurred in the city of Stilwell on April 13. According to Stilwell Mayor Jean Wright, no injuries were reported. Damages include downed power lines, damaged roofs and a sewer plant that had its roof blown off.
A strong tornado traveled north from Texas into Oklahoma on March 21, touching down in Kingston and leaving a quarter-mile-wide path of damage. Uprooted trees and downed power lines were also reported in neighboring Johnston County.
Nearly 240 homes in Marshall County were damaged and officials estimate that 20 people were injured. The Chickasaw Nation Emergency Management Command Center was set up in response to a request for help from Marshall County Emergency Management.
Several homes near the small towns of Nida and Emet were also damaged. On March 22, the National Weather Service said the damage is consistent with an EF-2 tornado.
A tornado rated EF-0 with winds near 80 mph was confirmed by the NWS in Memphis on April 14. The tornado touched down near Corinth in Alcorn County.
The NWS confirmed that three EF-1 tornadoes touched down in west Tennessee on March 30. Heavy wind and rain also caused damage in several communities. In Madison County, significant damage was reported to a nursing home and the sheriff’s office in Jackson.
On May 4, a tornado caused damage in the town of Lockett in Wilbarger County.
A tornado that damaged 61 homes and injured 23 people in Bell County on April 12 has been given a rating of EF-3 with peak winds of 165 mph. Governor Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations for Bell County and Williamson County in response to severe weather on April 12.
At least four tornadoes touched down in North Texas on April 4, causing damage to homes and vehicles. One of the tornadoes was an EF-2 with winds up to 112 mph and hit Johnson County north of Egan. In east Texas, one person died when storm winds toppled a tree onto their home in Whitehouse.
The tornado outbreak on March 21 produced at least 31 tornadoes, which ranks fourth for most tornadoes reported in a single calendar day. An EF-3 in Jacksboro (Jack County) with winds of 140 to 150 mph caused severe damage. At least 24 people were injured, and an EF-2 in Grayson County caused the death of a 73-year-old woman.
There was also extensive damage in the Sherwood Shores community. NBC DFW reports, “The tornado flipped multiple manufactured homes and snapped trees in half. A total of 105 structures were damaged, 53 destroyed and 27 sustained major damage. This tornado continued into Oklahoma. The tornado tracked about 2.4 miles with a width of 150 yards and lasted for about four minutes before dissipating.”
A disaster was declared by the governor in 16 Texas counties on March 22. This is the second disaster declaration that the governor issued in that week following the signing of a disaster declaration for 11 counties over wildfires.
According to data from NOAA, more than 9,500 tornadoes were reported in Texas between 1950 and 2021. Harris County, home to Houston, recorded the most tornadoes, 242 in total, in that period.
The extent of the damage has not been ascertained in all locations. As more information emerges, the situation will be clarified. However, there are common issues that are raised after a disaster.
Cleaning, repairing and rebuilding of damaged homes and businesses. This includes debris clean-up, which may be significant because of the downed power lines and trees, as well as the number of vehicles, appliances and furniture lost in the tornadoes. All the latter will also need to be replaced.
A critical ongoing need will be unrestricted cash donations to support affected individuals and families. Direct cash assistance can allow families to secure emergency housing, purchase items and contract services locally that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant, cost-effective and timely. Cash assistance can also help move families faster towards rebuilding their lives.
Emotional and spiritual care
Emotional and spiritual care will be critical, especially for families of people killed in the storms, first responders and those on the tornadoes’ direct paths. Long-term mental health and trauma support will also be required. Some of the affected communities – especially in Louisiana – have been impacted by numerous events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Isaac and Ida. This has left them with increased trauma from natural hazards.
Business recovery will be critical to help communities rebuild. A number of businesses were damaged or destroyed, putting people out of work at a time when they were already struggling harder than normal because of COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida recovery. This is particularly true of small businesses.
In addition to immediate response, long-term recovery needs will include rebuilding and fixing homes and community infrastructure to secure economic recovery. The tornadoes have affected people from all walks of life, some with insurance and others without. The destruction of mobile homes will also affect affordable housing availability in those communities.
To support the recovery efforts, please donate to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s Disaster Recovery Fund.
If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo: Tornado damage in the town of Arabi in St. Bernard parish. Source: Tanya Gulliver-Garcia)
If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email email@example.com.
More ways to help
As with most disasters, disaster experts recommend cash donations, which enable on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.
CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:
- Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time, and funding will be needed throughout.
- Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not: Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
- All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding.
- Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and National VOAD can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities.
If you are an individual who has been affected, we recommend that you contact your local 2-1-1 to find out what services are available to help your recovery.
The National Weather Service defines tornadoes as “a violently rotating column of air touching the ground, usually attached to the base of a thunderstorm.” The U.S. is home to more tornadoes than any other country in the world, with approximately 1,000 to 1,200 tornadoes occurring a year throughout the country.
Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.
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