Violent Weather Bypassing Texas; Drought to Linger

March 7, 2007

The drought-like weather conditions that have plagued much of the state for the past three years have had a positive effect in limiting the number of damaging hailstorms and tornadoes in Texas.

Meteorologists say the lack of significant rainfall may continue, the Insurance Coucil of Texas reported.

“Spring, in particular the months of April and May, traditionally bring about the advent of violent weather systems that enter the state,” said Larry Eblen, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Austin/San Antonio Forecast Office. “But, it appears we are entering a La Nina weather pattern, which usually means less thunderstorm activity, but it enhances the chance for tropical storms.”

Hurricane forecasters predict 2007 will be an above average year for hurricanes. But, forecasters made the same prediction for 2006, which turned out to be well-below average. In 2005, there were twice as many hurricanes as forecasted.

Texas is located in what has been called Tornado Alley, but so far this year, severe storms producing deadly twisters have occurred east of Texas in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

Walt Zaleski, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service southern regional headquarters, said what we are seeing is a normal weather pattern for this time of year. “Most of the violent weather early in the year will occur in Florida and begin working its way back toward Texas during the spring,” said Zaleski. “While we could use the rainfall, we don’t need the destructive storms.”

Since the drought-like conditions began in 2004, Texas has seen the formation of fewer thunderstorms producing tornadoes. Texas averages 165 tornadoes each year. In 2005 Texas had 105 tornadoes and last year Texas had 103 tornadoes.

“The worst year on record remains 1995 when Texas recorded the costliest hailstorm on record and we saw the highest incidence of tornadoes,” said Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas. “To end our drought and avoid violent weather, we need some long steady rains.”

Meteorologists say F-5 tornadoes or twisters with winds exceeding 261 miles per hour make up less than one per cent of all tornadoes that form. In 1997, an F-5 tornado was responsible for 27 deaths in the community of Jarrell. The storm system moved directly southward producing six tornadoes and claiming two more lives in the Austin area before dissipating.

The Insurance Council of Texas urges all Texans to heed weather warnings and take cover if advised to do so. A tornado watch means that the outbreak of tornadoes could occur. A tornado warning means a tornado has been confirmed. While tornadoes can occur at any time of the day, most violent weather outbreaks occur in the early evening hours.

This week has been designated “Severe Weather Awareness Week.”

On average, Texas has more tornadoes every year than any other state. The National Weather Service has provided a list of the number of tornadoes that have occurred in Texas since 1995:


*Preliminary estimate

Source: Insurance Council of Texas

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