With 22 tornado-related deaths in the South over the weekend, 2008 is shaping up to be the deadliest year for twisters in a decade, USA Today reports. With 98 total fatalities, “we are on a pace that continues a record number” of tornadoes since modern record-keeping began in 1950, said an expert. Thus far, there have been 636 twisters this year, officials say, behind only 1999, which saw 669 through May 11.
Weather patterns have been suited to tornadoes this year. The jet stream has been moving from southwest to northeast, pulling moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, while warm air in the south clashes with cold air above it to create spinning winds. Meanwhile, individual states are seeing high numbers of twisters; several are “above average for the year, and obviously the year is not nearly done,” said the expert.