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Be prepared: Active start to severe storm season

Mammatus (Credit: Michelle Schrotz)

Severe weather season has arrived. While severe weather is possible any time of the year, from now through autumn often turns out to be prime season for severe storms across the region. The DMV has had a few rounds of severe storms so far this year. The first severe outbreak occurred in February and the most recent in April and May.

On February 25, 2017 an area of low pressure and associated cold front moved across the Midwest. There was a confirmed EF-1 tornado near La Plata and Waldorf, Maryland. Two other tornadoes formed that day, one in Pennsylvania and the first February tornado ever recorded in Massachusetts.

On April 6th, 2017, there was a confirmed EF-0 tornado that moved through the Tidal Basin and into DC severe storms started in the Deep South earlier in the week before reaching the DC Metro by Thursday afternoon. In addition to the Tidal Basin, there were confirmed EF-0 tornadoes at Joint Base Bolling and in Reston, Virginia that afternoon. These were all spawned along the same line of storms that developed well to the southwest of DC and moved into the Metro at 60 miles per hour.

Nationally, the severe weather season has been off to an intense start. Based on preliminary data from the National Weather Service, the US has recorded 569 tornadoes through April 28, 2017. January 2017 was one for the record books with 134 confirmed tornadoes, compared to just 17 in 2016 and 28 in 2015.

The typical severe weather season for tornado alley is during fall and spring. However, the severe weather season and set-up for DC is a little different. Based on climatology, the highest chance for severe weather occurs in June and July.

During late winter and early spring frontal boundaries and upper level winds are closely watched. If stronger upper level winds come with enough lift and instability this could indicate an outbreak of severe weather is possible.

Throughout the summer and early fall, the set up is modified. Upper level winds are still a big component, but we also shift our focus to instability and moisture content.

The StormWatch7 weather team will continue to monitor the severe weather threat as we get closer to summertime. Be sure to download the StormWatch7 App and sign up for our hand crafted severe weather text alerts to help keep you ahead of any breaking weather.

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