UNITED STATES — June 7, 2019 — The month of May saw unusually high severe weather activity across much of the central U.S. as reports of hail, flash flooding, and tornadoes stretched from Colorado to Pennsylvania. In the latter part of May, tornado-producing storms battered the Plains and Midwest day after day, peaking on Memorial Day, May 27, when as many as 55 tornadoes touched down in eight states, according to the Associated Press (AP). The following day, May 28, marked the 12th consecutive day with eight or more reported tornadoes in the U.S., making it the longest recorded stretch for that level of tornado activity, according to CNN and other sources.
On Memorial Day, a cluster of tornados tore through Indiana and Ohio, killing one person, injuring at least 130 people, and damaging homes and buildings, according to the AP. Winds took roofs off houses, downed trees and power lines, and knocked homes from their foundations. Some of the heaviest damage was reported outside Dayton, Ohio.
The tornado claimed one life in Celina, Ohio when a parked car was blown into the home of 82-year-old Melvin Dale Hanna, killing him. The AP quoted Celina Mayor Jeffrey Hazel saying, “There’s areas that truly look like a war zone.” In nearby communities, damage to schools canceled classes and more than 50,000 residents in the Dayton area lost power. On the same night, another tornado hit Pendleton and Huntsville, Indiana, damaging at least 75 homes, as reported by the AP.
The severe weather continued the following day, May 28, when a storm on outskirts of Kansas City caused a tornado that damaged homes and left at least 12 people injured, according to the AP. Earlier in the holiday weekend, on May 25, an EF3 tornado ripped through El Reno, Oklahoma just outside Oklahoma City, killing two people and injuring 29 others, according to ABC News. The tornado leveled a hotel and trailer park and left a 2.2-mile trail of destruction that was 75 yards across at its widest point. Just a few days before that, ABC News reports that tornadoes swept through Missouri as well, killing three people in Golden City, Missouri on May 22 and causing extensive damage but no fatalities in Jefferson City.
According to CNN, there is usually an average of 276 tornado reports in the month of May. This May saw more than 460 reports. The intense tornado activity in May was the result of a weather pattern that created a perfect storm for tornado conditions.
A particularly strong jet stream stalled over the Plains and Midwest during the last two weeks of May. This stream of fast-moving air lingers at the top of the atmosphere, separating areas of cold air from warm air, and this creates the wind shear and volatile conditions necessary for strong thunderstorms and tornadoes to develop, according to CNN.
Tornado-producing jet streams are not uncommon this time of year, but they usually move across the country quickly, producing a few days of storms before dissipating. May’s strong jet stream lasted longer than usual and held its position over the central U.S., bringing day after day of storms, tornados, and flooding to the same hard-hit areas, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, according to CNN and other sources. Most of these areas are still assessing the damage, but it is safe to say that widespread recovery and restoration efforts will be needed in the coming months.