After getting off to a slow start, the severe weather season has kicked into overdrive. A multi-day tornado outbreak has been wreaking havoc across the southern and central United States since Sunday. Widespread destruction, power outages, and a mounting death toll have been reported across several states. Some of the hardest hit areas include Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama.
According to local authorities, the twister that hit Vilonia and Mayflower, Arkansas on Sunday night was on the ground for 29.2 miles and claimed the lives of at least 16 people. With winds in excess of 136 mph, the NWS has assigned it a preliminary rating of EF-3. On Monday, the same deadly storm system moved into Mississippi and Alabama and generated even more tornadoes. Local officials there say hundreds of homes were destroyed and at least a dozen people were killed. The strongest storm in this outbreak so far was an EF-4 (preliminary rating) that touched down in Louisville, Mississippi. With winds ranging between 166 and 200 mph, it was also the strongest tornado to form in the U.S. to date this year.
Tornadoes are par for the course in this part of the country in spring, but the longevity of this outbreak is unusual. With warm, moist air moving up from the Gulf of Mexico and feeding into a very slow moving low-pressure system, the threat of severe weather continues to linger.