No tornado deaths in U.S. this year _ so far

Sunday, April 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ There has yet to be a tornado fatality reported in the United States this year, the latest the country has gone without a tornado death since record keeping began in 1950.

The longest the country had gone without a tornado death before this year was 1961, when the first fatality was reported April 12, said Dan McCarthy, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman.

McCarthy also said there have been 58 tornadoes this year, far fewer than normal.

``We can run anywhere from 150 to 300 tornadoes by this time,'' he said. ``The one thing that's been noticed so far is that the cold blast has been later this year for several parts of the country.''

Typically, winter season tornadoes form when cold, dry air from Canada collides with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.

This year the storm tracks either stayed to the north or moved right along the Gulf coast, so the moist air and the cold didn't have the chance to collide and form tornadoes.

But the lack of twisters shouldn't lull people into a false sense of security, McCarthy said.

``People need to be aware that things can change rapidly,'' he said. ``The number of tornadoes can go up rapidly. You have to be sure of the forecast. We're now entering into the peak season for severe storms.''

In an average year, about 70 Americans are killed by tornadoes with 1,500 injured. Typically there are 1,200 tornadoes per year causing more than $400 million in damage.

Peak tornado activity occurs during March through early July.

April could provide an indication of what kind of severe weather is in store this year.

``Even though we may end up way below normal in January, February and March, it is no indication of what kind of tornado season you will have, but if you get through April with a low number, it may be a slow season,'' McCarthy said.