It’s the 6th Slowest Start to Severe Weather Season since 1986. Will it last?

Local News

LINCOLN, Ill. (WCIA) – It’s the 6th slowest start to severe weather season in Central Illinois since 1986, according to data made available from the National Weather Service Office in Lincoln.

Using a count of combined tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, through April 30th, the National Weather Service Office in Lincoln has only issued 12 in 2021.

It should be noted that not all of the WCIA 3 Viewing area is covered by the National Weather Service Office in Lincoln. We also have coverage from the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago for parts of the region.

Looking specifically at the data from the NWS Office in Lincoln, it’s still abnormally slow. The top 5 slowest year-to-date starts ahead of 2021 for both severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings are as follows;
1. 1993 (3)
2. 2019 (5)
3. 2018 (6)
4. 1987 (7)
5. 1986 (9)
6. 2021 (12)

Does the start of a year’s severe weather alerts offer foresight into how the rest of the year plays out? Not necessarily. Once the top five slowest starts to the years were over with, they were mixed with how impactful they were. 1993 and 2019 all ended with more warnings than average, while 2018 ended near normal. 1986 and 1987 were below average with total warning counts. However, 2018 brought a high impact event on December 1st with an outbreak of tornadoes, the most devastating which hit Taylorville (EF3).

We’re using Lincoln as a proxy, but still, looking at the other offices shows similar starts with a slower than average year. The NWS Office in St. Louis was at their 8th slowest start since 1986, while the NWS Office in Chicago was tied for the 3rd slowest start on record, recording just one warning. The NWS Office in Indianapolis was tied for the slowest start on record (6).

One notable trend though is that regardless of the year, May traditionally offers an uptick in severe weather across Central Illinois, with events lasting into June, July and even August almost every year. Our peak of severe weather season traditionally is in May, but summer storms can bring severe weather all the way into September before a notably quieter trend downward in the region heading into Fall and Winter. Still, a number of notable severe weather events have occurred in the Fall and Winter months, most recently November 17th, 2013 and December 1st, 2018.

Regardless of the trends and the outlooks, you should always be prepared for severe weather. We encourage you to have at least two ways to get weather alerts and to prepare now for severe weather. It’s better to be prepared well ahead of time, rather than reacting when the minutes and seconds matter.

To learn more about severe weather and what you can do to be prepared, check out the WCIA 3 Spring Severe Weather Special, “Weathering the Storm”.

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