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Joplin tornado: one of the 10 deadliest on record?

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Henry Margusity | 15:45 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

d ~ 373'056'000 km: day 145

(AccuWeather.com Senior meteorologist and severe weather expert, Henry Margusity, offers the Meteorological Madness blog including detailed analysis of severe weather across the US. Accuweather creates more than 600 weather videos a day and is a hub for all things weather).

The Joplin tornado will go down in the record books as one of the 10 deadliest tornadoes on record. So why has it been so active?

One of the theories is the strong La Nina that occurred. The La Nina is the colder than normal waters in the southern Pacific. That area of colder water has caused a shift in the jet stream that has resulted in a wild and extreme weather pattern across the United States since the winter, recent trends have shown the La Nina has weakened but the residual affects on the Jet Stream are still causing extreme weather in the form of tornadoes. It will take another month or so for the weather pattern to finally shift to one that is not as extreme.

While it's unclear as to what has caused the extreme weather, one thing is sure, the severe weather season will go down in the record books for the United States.

Below is a list of tornado FAQs, offering a quick reference of tornado records and stats.

Tornado Statistics

• How many tornadoes hit the U.S. yearly?
Tornado reporting methods have changed a lot in the last several decades, so the officially recorded tornadoes are believed to be incomplete. Although the actual average is unknown, recent trends indicate the number is around 1,300. This year the number of tornadoes is 1151 reports which is on pace for a record season.

• How many people are killed by tornadoes every year?
On average, about 60 people are killed by tornadoes every year, most from flying or falling debris. This year, 482 people have been killed by tornadoes.

• What were the top 10 deadliest U.S. tornadoes in the Past? (pending final totals from the Apr 27, 2011 and May 22, 2011 tornadoes)
1. Mar 18, 1925, Tri-State (MO/IL/IN), 695 deaths
2. May 6, 1840, Natches, MS, 317 deaths
3. May 27, 1896, St. Louis, MO, 255 deaths
4. Apr 5, 1936, Tupelo, MS, 216 deaths
5. Apr 6, 1936, Gainesville, GA, 203 deaths
6. Apr 9, 1947, Woodward, OK, 181 deaths
7. Apr 24, 1908, Amite, LA / Purvis, MS, 143 deaths
8. Jun 12, 1899, New Richmond, WI, 117 deaths
9. May 22, 2011, Joplin, MO 116 deaths (pending final totals)
10. Jun 8, 1953, Flint, MI, 115 deaths
11. May 11, 1953, Waco, TX, 114 deaths

• What city has been hit by the most tornadoes?
Oklahoma City. The exact count is not known, but the total is more than 100.

• Which city/town holds the most tornado fatalities in a single city or town?
Murphysboro, IL - at least 234 people lost their lives during the March, 1925 "Tri-state" tornado.

• What was the deadliest U.S. tornado day?
The Dixie Alley tornado outbreak on Apr 27, 2011 set a record of 335 deaths.

• What was the biggest outbreak of tornadoes?
On Apr 3 and 4, 1974, 147 tornadoes touched down in 13 states.
April 25-28, 2011 may exceed this number once the final number of tornadoes is counted. So far 492 tornado reports.

• What was the biggest known tornado?
The Hallam, Nebraska tornado of May 22, 2004 had the peak width of nearly two and a half miles, which is close to the maximum size for tornadoes.

• What was the strongest tornado? What is the highest wind speed in a tornado?
Tornado wind speeds have only been recorded in weaker ones, since violent tornadoes could destroy weather instruments. The highest winds that have ever been found during a tornado were about 302 mph near Bridge Creek, OK on May 3, 1999.

• What were the costliest tornadoes?
On Jun 8, 1966, the Topeka, KS tornado had a cost of about $1,680,136,978 in 2010 dollars.

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