WASHINGTON (AP) — Weather experts said it’s unusual for deadly tornadoes to develop a few weeks apart in the U.S. But what made the two storm systems that barreled through a Missouri city and the South within the last month so rare is that tornadoes took direct aim at populated areas.
The tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., on Sunday killed at least 116 people and marked the nation’s deadliest single tornado in almost six decades. The series of twisters that swept through the South late last month killed more than 300 people. Both disasters leveled entire communities.
Such a pair of weather events is “unusual but not unknown,” said tornado researcher Howard B. Bluestein of the University of Oklahoma. “Sometimes you get a weather pattern in which the ingredients for a tornado are there over a wide area and persist for a long time. That’s what we’re having this year.”
And the threat is continuing, he said, noting more storms are predicted over the next few days.