Ag Weather Forum

Severe Weather Off to Ferocious Start in 2024

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
The total tornado reports to the Storm Prediction Center have been well above the normal pace in 2024 (in red). (NOAA graphic)

It seems like active weather has been the case all this spring, as we have had system after system continue to move through the United States. You can measure the active pattern by rainfall, drought reduction, or a more dramatic effect -- severe weather.

So far in 2024, the amount of severe weather has been well ahead of the average pace. More than 1,000 tornadoes have been reported to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) as of May 27. That is more than the 731 that have occurred on average over the last 15 years.

Hail reports are only slightly above average with 3,142 reports for 2024 compared to 2,790 over the last 15 years. But wind reports have really skyrocketed during May and are well ahead of the 15-year average of 4,160 with a total of 5,899. This puts 2024 on pace for the second-highest severe weather reports over the last 15 years.

The year of 2011 is in first place and in all likelihood will not be touched. At this same point that year, there were 1,670 tornado reports, 7,087 hail reports, and 9,041 wind reports. All three are well beyond the totals of the last 15 years.

Another statistic that is not tracked officially would be the frequent amount of derechos, or long-tracked severe windstorms with hurricane-force wind gusts and continuous damage over at least 250 miles. About one or two derechos develop in the U.S. every year. But 2024 has already seen two and maybe four derechos depending on the exact criteria.

Though the case for the hurricane-force wind gusts may not make this a true derecho, a line of storms that formed in Oklahoma and Missouri on April 1 continued through the Ohio Valley on April 2. In addition to widespread wind damage, more than 100 tornadoes were reported, though some of these were in storms away from the derecho.

Another derecho developed May 16-17 across Texas and Louisiana that caused widespread damage in downtown Houston with several reports over 100 miles per hour. This system was small, but it packed a wallop.

The third is also questionable, and probably doesn't meet the true definition of a derecho, but widespread damage and hurricane-force wind gusts were very present over the state of Kansas on May 19 as storms from the southwest moved eastward through the state. The storms did not stay together long enough to count for a derecho, but the damage certainly was severe with 18 instances of hurricane-force winds over that short track.

During May 23, another derecho moved from eastern Nebraska in the early morning hours through Iowa and into northern Illinois by midday. Several wind gusts over 100 mph and tornadoes rolled through with that storm.

And though not a derecho, severe storms that developed in the Central Plains on May 25 grew into a devastating bow echo that tore through the Ohio Valley on May 26. Between the two days, more than 60 tornado reports, 400 hail reports, and 1,000 wind damage reports were noted to the SPC. The system had all the features of a derecho except for the hurricane-force wind gusts, which were not recorded along the windstorm, but were in small areas before the storm came together overnight.

It can be argued that greater urban expansion, easier reporting procedures, and luck have combined to create the higher reports of severe weather during the last few decades, but when looking at the last five years, 2024 still stands out with some of the longest-tracked tornadoes and high amount of windstorms and derechos that we have seen in recent years.

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