As we move into late May, it’s easy to write off severe weather season. After all, the big, classic tornado outbreaks happen in March, April, and early May around here. The problem is, even as we exit what is often considered our “classic” severe weather season, our chances for severe weather don’t really decrease all that much around here. In fact, they trend up a bit as we head into June, and don’t decrease substantially until we get into mid to late August (and by then, we have the threat of landfalling tropical systems to deal with).
We do see fewer tornadoes in Alabama in the Summer months than we do in the spring, but the thing is, we do see tornadoes in the summer.
So, we’re still averaging over a tornado per year across Alabama in June, July, and August since 1950. That’s proof that even as we leave a very active Spring behind in the state for the supposedly tamer Summer weather, there’s never really a time of year where your tornado threat hits zero. In addition, Summer storms do usually bring different kinds of threats too. Those pop up thunderstorms we get in the Summer months are often the worst weather you’ll experience all year, and can cause big problems with wind and hail. In addition, big clusters of storms called Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCS) often move through in the summer months. These can produce fierce winds, and sometimes can be strong enough to be considered a derecho. A derecho is an MCS that produces 58 mph or greater wind damage over a swath of 250 miles, and pockets of wind damage greater than 75 mph. These events often leave tornado-like destruction in their wake, and sometimes tornadoes can be embedded in these clusters of storms along with the winds. Back in 2018, a derecho produced winds over 100 mph in Madison county. We see roughly one derecho in North Alabama every 2 years or so.
So, as schools dismiss and Summer begins, keep in mind that our severe weather threat doesn’t end, it just evolves.