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Tornado threat: How are January tornadoes possible? (+video)

A tornado threat was posted Tuesday. Tornadoes are unusual in winter, but a large swath of the country was under a tornado watch, with some areas facing a tornado warning.

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Tornadoes in January? A wide area of the central and southeast U.S. faces this unusual threat as an approaching cold front clashes with unusually warm air, a meteorologist said on Tuesday.

The first tornado warning of the approaching storm was issued on Tuesday for western Missouri, said meteorologist Bill Bunting at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

A warning is intended to signal residents to take cover because a tornado could be forming. A less urgent tornado watch is in effect for a region from extreme northeast Texas through virtually all of Arkansas, western Tennessee and extreme southern Illinois.

"It's a little unusual," Bunting said of the tornado threat. "We don't see this every winter with this kind of warmth preceding a storm system."

Bunting said a lesser threat of severe storms and possible tornadoes extends over a huge area as far north as Chicago and extending east to Cincinnati, Ohio and Nashville, Tennessee and south into Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

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