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Warm spring, more tornadoes? Meteorologists raise red flags.

An unusually balmy spring plus cold fronts are a formula for stronger thunderstorms and tornadoes, as hard-hit communities strive to be more resilient.


Illinois and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials walk through Harrisburg, Ill., which was hit by a tornado Feb. 29. FEMA said Monday that it will not help homeowners in Harrisburg.

Paul Newton/The Southern/AP

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As the residents of such tornado-stricken states as Indiana, Alabama, and Kentucky continue to clean-up from last week’s twisters, weather forecasters are warning that this spring could continue to see active weather systems with yet more severe weather. The main driver: a warmer than normal spring, à la 70 degrees in New York City on Monday and 70 degrees in Chicago by Wednesday. By Friday, it is expected to be in the 70s in Sioux Falls, S.D., about 30 degrees above normal.

As warm weather collides with cold fronts, the sharp temperature differential creates unstable weather conditions. At the same time, meteorologists say the Gulf of Mexico is slightly warmer than normal, providing the kind of moisture that can result in dangerous thunderstorms.

“This year conditions are more conducive than normal for extreme weather,” says Joe Lundberg, senior meteorologist at in State College, Pa. “We are getting off to an early and nasty start.”

He would get no argument from the residents of the central and southeast US where many extreme weather events take place. In February, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 57 tornadoes were reported, nearly twice the 1991-2010 average of 29. The extreme weather has continued into March. For example, last week in southern Indiana, 13 people died after an F4 tornado – one of the largest – caused massive destruction.


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