Torrid Tornado Season Projected for Southern U.S.

A La Niña climate pattern could push more twisters into the sky during late March through April.

March 02, 2021

DEKALB, Ill.—Don’t let the slow start fool you—this year’s tornado season could soon roar to life and be more potent than usual throughout the South and Southeast. Scientists point to a “La Niña climate pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean” as the reason behind the prediction, the Washington Post reports. Now is the time for convenience stores across the region to prepare for an extra dose of severe weather.

This is the third year in a row with a predicted twister-heavy April. For the past two years, more than 270 tornados cut swaths through the mid-South and Southeast, and experts believe April 2021 will deliver much of the same. Such activity comes on the heels of a less-than-average twister count of 23 to date, a quarter of the usual activity by this time of year.

“I think you’re going to see severe weather return as early as the beginning of March to the southern Plains and the southeastern United States,” said Victor Gensini, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Northern Illinois University and the creator of Extended-Range Tornado Activity Forecasts (ERTAF).

Some researchers forecast states along the Gulf of Mexico, including those in the Tennessee and Mississippi River valleys, might bear the brunt of tornado destruction through April, when twister activity generally switches toward the Plains in the Midwest.

Seasonal tornados are driven by La Niña weather patterns. “Right now, the equatorial waters off the coast of Peru and Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean are pretty cold, and the atmosphere, especially in the wake of the [central U.S. cold], is more classic La Niña,” said Gensini. “In the past, that translates to higher [tornado] counts … that tends to favor tornado outbreaks more frequently. La Niña tips the scales to greater counts.”

With those conditions favoring a significantly higher-than-average activity, experts also noted that the tornado season usually starts earlier and spawns more twisters with a La Niña.

Convenience stores can be ready with supplies such as food, water and fuel that customers in the path of storms will be seeking. Convenience stores are normally the first to reopen after weather disasters, which makes it all the more important for c-stores to have a plan of action in order reopen quickly to best serve communities in need.

Be sure to visit the NACS Disaster and Emergency Preparedness page for more information on how your store can prepare should tornados and other inclement weather head your way.

Emergency Planning Resources

The NACS Convenience Store Emergency Planning and Job Aids are customizable and include a plan evaluation document and Job Aids listing tasks and checklists for specific functions that store employees perform during emergency and disaster planning and recovery. The Job Aids can also be used as on-boarding training, refresher training or immediate training when emergency conditions approach.