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As the traditional tornado season comes to an end this month, tornado activity in the United States has remained low, according to NOAA's National Weather Service. The unofficial count of 451 tornadoes reported by July 24 is half of the 10-year average of 914 tornadoes and the lowest mid-year count since 1988, said officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the Commerce Department.
This year, fewer tornadoes also means fewer deaths. As of July 24, 11 people have been killed by tornadoes this year. "The 10 year average for deaths by July 24 is 46," said Dan McCarthy, warning coordination meteorologist for NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.
"A cold air outbreak in February and March, when tornadoes typically occur in the southeast, delayed the start of tornado season," McCarthy said. This followed a winter when the position of the jet stream and resulting storm track prohibited tornado development. Drought may also be a factor in the low number of tornadoes this year, he added.
According to the Storm Prediction Center only 11 years since 1950 have seen fewer tornadoes during the same period. On average, about 57 Americans are killed by tornadoes each year, with 1,200 injured. An average of 1,200 tornadoes cause more than $400 million in damages annually. Peak tornado activity occurs during the months of March through early July.
The most destructive and deadly tornado this year occurred in La Plata, Md., on April 28, killing three people. Based on the damage, officials rated it an F4 on the Fujita Damage Scale. Other deadly tornadoes that occurred that day were an F3 in Dongola, Ill., that killed one person and an F2 in Irvington, Ky., that also killed one. Two other April tornadoes each killed one person, an F3 on April 21 in Fairfield, Ill., and an F3 on April 27 in Marble Hill, Mo. On May 5, an F2 tornado in Happy, Texas, killed two people and four days later an F1 in Centralia, Ill., also killed two.
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