Apr 7, 2023 - News

Georgia's tornado season is busier than usual

A family embraces outside of their damaged home after a tornado touched down on March 26 in West Point, Georgia. Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Georgia is experiencing more tornadoes than usual so far this year — and April, traditionally the most active month, has just begun, the National Weather Service says.

What's happening: 32 confirmed tornadoes have hit Georgia in 2023, according to the NWS in Peachtree City. Just this week two tornadoes touched down in Decatur County.

  • "In general, we tend to average around 25 to 30 tornadoes throughout the state in a given year," NWS' senior meteorologist Kyle Thiem told Axios.
  • "April tends to be our busiest month by a pretty decent margin. So the fact that we're already hitting over our state average for the year just for the first three months is pretty significant."

State of play: Storms in north and central Georgia Georgia have killed at least two people since January, Thiem said. Volunteers and relief and recovery organizations are still fixing damage, and road crews in Troup have focused on clearing debris on at least one lane of traffic to ensure emergency vehicles can access homes.

Zoom out: Researchers say tornado alley — the Great Plains and the Midwest, traditionally — appears to be shifting east, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.

  • "Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, those kinds of areas are typically staying stagnant or decreasing in terms of the number of strong tornadoes they get every year," Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University, told Freedman.
  • "That's incredibly important for the United States — as you go from the Great Plains, the population density rapidly increases."

Jeff Trapp, head of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois, said that overall, the frequency of tornado activity in the U.S. has been declining, but the peak occurrence has shifted to earlier in the spring.

What's happening: We can't yet connect an individual tornado's ferocity or occurrence to climate change, but the overall environment in which they occur is already being altered by increased amounts of greenhouse gasses.

  • Regardless, Gensini says, urban planners should take into account how the changing weather patterns in increasingly dense areas should be factored into decisions.

Flashback: 87 years ago Thursday, on April 6, 1936, one of the deadliest tornadoes in the country's history devastated Gainesville, Georgia, killing more than 200 people and injuring 1,600.

  • Several days afterward, President Franklin Roosevelt visited to survey the millions of dollars in damage.
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