It is one of the deadliest such events in history, at a time of year when they are rare. Between hurricanes, polar cold waves, and episodes of severe drought, the United States is accustomed to extreme weather events. They are part of the history of America. But, due to their power or other characteristics, some of these events are nonetheless out of the ordinary. Like the tornadoes that hit the center of the country on Friday evening
Probably More Than 100 Deaths
According to the National Weather Service, the US Weather Service, nearly 40 of these extremely violent eddies have been reported in six neighboring states, from Arkansas to Kentucky, including Missouri, Mississippi, Illinois, and Tennessee. It is, in the words of Joe Biden, “one of the worst tornado series” in the history of the country.
If the balance sheet stood at 93 deaths on Sunday, it is very likely that it will grow heavier over the hours, while rescuers are hard at work to clear the rubble and try to free the survivors. According to the US Agency for Ocean and Atmospheric Observation (NOAA), only fifteen tornado episodes have crossed the 100-casualty threshold since 1840.
Kentucky, Swept For More Than 320 Kilometers
The most serious concern is Kentucky, the most affected state. Governor Andy Beshear announced on Sunday “at least 80 dead”, fearing the total could exceed 100 or even more. One of the most devastated towns, Mayfield, a town of 10,000 inhabitants, now looks like “a pile of matches”, according to its mayor. “The devastation is incomparable with anything I have seen in my life and I find it difficult to find the words to describe it,” said the governor.
Outside Kentucky, at least thirteen deaths have been recorded in Illinois, including six in an Amazon warehouse with a collapsed roof. Of the hundred or so people present, only forty-five were able to get out, according to the firefighters. On Sunday, rescuers continued their search.
If the damage is startling in Kentucky, it is because this state has been swept over more than 320 kilometers, a particularly rare phenomenon. According to the Washington Post, if scientists confirmed that a single tornado was the cause – and not a wave of successive vortices – it would be the longest on record and the first to hit four States.
A Phenomenon Associated With Sunny Days
Another anomaly: the season. While tornadoes can strike all year round, they are more numerous, and more violent, during the hot months: more than 70% of them occur between March and July. December is even the least favorite month for tornadoes. The 25 most important in history, listed by NOAA, all occurred in the spring, between mid-March and the end of June of the years concerned.
Announcing the state of emergency in Kentucky, Joe Biden found that the weather phenomena were “more intense” with global warming, without however establishing a direct causal link between climate change and the disaster that comes from to mourn the country.