Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared in the weekly weather report, the CNN Weather Brief, which is published every Monday. You can sign up here to receive them weekly and during major storms.
Seventy-six: the number of tornadoes the Jackson, Mississippi area has experienced in less than five weeks.
If that doesn’t sound exhausting, I don’t know what does.
Every week having to monitor the weather for the potential for severe weather – tornadoes, hail, damaging winds – all of it. It’s exhausting for the forecasters and it’s exhausting for the people living it.
“And of course I know I’m tired of it and I’m sure others are,” said Hunter Dickerson, a lifelong Jackson resident and recent storm victim.
“Every Wednesday for the past month has been either a tornado warning or watching the news to see if you need to get your safe spot,” he recalled.
From March 22 to April 17, there were thunderstorms every week.
They have produced many tornadoes and shaken many lives. I believe storm fatigue has set in throughout the Southeast.
And this week, we got to see him again.
A record spring
“We had one of the most active sources so far in recorded history, as far as the number of tornadoes has been documented,” said Eric Carpenter, a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist in Jackson. “I’ve been in this office for about 25 years now. And it’s definitely one of the busiest times I’ve endured.
His office has issued 70 tornado warnings since March 22, far more than any other NWS office in the country.
Carpenter told me on the phone that in some cases they are still monitoring the tornado damage from the previous week and then the next set of storms are coming.
“People who live here are used to really active periods of time,” Carpenter acknowledged. “But it has certainly been more active than usual.”
An above-average season
In fact, nationally, the number of tornadoes is well above average.
So far this year, the United States has received 562 preliminary tornado reports. On average, we usually see 426 at this point in the year.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with Bill Bunting, chief of forecasting operations at the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), about how storms hit the same areas week after week.
He explained that jet stream placement is what causes storms, and how storms following similar patterns aren’t as rare as one might think.
“There’s a pretty chaotic component to the atmosphere, but it sometimes goes into patterns where we see this repeatability. We’ve seen it in all seasons,” Bunting explained. “And unfortunately, over the past month, the pattern in that we are in is that of periodic, fairly low-latitude, upper-level storm systems moving across the southern United States.”
Too close for comfort
Hunter Dickerson said the increase in severe weather was evident as he told me on the phone about a huge tree that fell in his yard during storms just a few weeks ago while he was in home with her two sons, aged 5 and 7.
“We didn’t hear the sirens going off or anything like that. We had watched the news and I thought we were clear. Then all of a sudden it got really bad, really fast,” Dickerson said. “I don’t know if it was a tornado or not. But strong winds came back and toppled the tree and we ended up in our safe place after that.
He considers himself extremely lucky that the tree didn’t land on the house with all three inside.
“I took it for granted that with most of the warnings, nothing affected me,” admitted Dickerson. “So I guess that was a warning to me.”
Storm fatigue hit the Southeast
But Mississippians aren’t the only ones exhausted by the storms.
Mayfield, Kentucky experienced a deadly EF4 tornado that killed at least 70 people.
Shawn Triplett lived through the storm and noted that whenever there was severe weather, they packed up and left the house.
“We find a restaurant that has decent structural integrity or a hotel or a hospital,” Triplett said. “Whenever there’s a big major storm coming, that’s what we do. I know many people who do the exact same thing.
In fact, this photo was posted to Twitter on April 13 when severe weather hit the same area.
Hundreds of people traveled to Mayfield Elementary to seek shelter and to look for each other, most likely.
“They just wanted to regroup, I guess, although ironically the school isn’t considered a shelter from the storms,” Triplett observed.
An EF1 tornado touched down within three miles of the elementary school.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
“It’s not like a blizzard where you can just hunker down and start a fire. Is random. And that causes even more anxiety than most weather issues,” Triplett pointed out, mentioning the PTSD that many locals still feel today.
The pressure to stay informed and stay safe weighs on residents of repeatedly hit cities, and on forecasters who hold people’s safety in their hands.
“Tornadoes with these types of events make things very tense trying to warn them because they can turn around very quickly and sometimes people don’t have a lot of time. It’s a tough situation,” Carpenter said.
More thunderstorms this week
And that brings us to this week’s threat: the sixth straight week of severe weather.
“The last Monday of the month will bring a chance of showers and thunderstorms extending along a cold front that stretches from the lower Great Lakes to southern Texas,” the Weather Prediction Center (WPC) wrote in his discussion of forecasts. “Repeated rounds of heavy rains may affect areas between the lower Mississippi Valley and southern Texas.”
The risk of showers and storms will remain in place until mid-week.
The good news is that the tornado threat remains low.
It’s the time of year when extreme weather typically moves from the southeast to the plains, but we all know this year has been anything but typical.
The Plains will see a threat of severe weather by Friday as a strong area of low pressure moves into the region from the Rockies.
The SPC has highlighted an area including parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska for the potential for Friday’s storms.
CNN meteorologists Judson Jones and Haley Brink contributed to this article.