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Weather Talk: United States experiencing one of worst tornado years

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Weather Talk: United States experiencing one of worst tornado years
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In many different statistical categories, 2011 is turning into one of the worst years on record for tornadoes.

April set the record for the most tornadoes, with 875 reported across the nation. Tornado numbers in May are still preliminary, but the national total for 2011 so far is already approaching the three-year average over an entire year, and it isn't even June yet. There have been an unusual number of large and violent tornadoes, and several have hit large population centers including Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in Alabama and Joplin, Mo., resulting in some 500 deaths so far this year.

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But before jumping to the conclusion that we now live in a new and terrible tornado regime, consider that tornado activity had been below average for several years in a row. Consider also that, historically, there have been years with high tornado statistics from time to time. Much like the wild hurricane season back in 2005, the U.S. is having a really bad time with tornadoes this year. But it is likely just a bad year and not a foreboding change.

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