It’s unknown whether Colorado will see a repeat this year of 2015’s slightly higher-than-average tornado season. The state’s 25-year average for tornadoes is about 50 per year.
Last year saw a few more than that, partly because of El Nino. That Pacific weather pattern is still active, but could be shifting before Colorado’s tornado season is over, according to meteorologist Bob Glancy.
Glancy spoke to CPR News about Colorado's tornado season and more. Edited highlights are below.
Should we expect more tornadoes this year too because of El Nino?
"Well we're in a transition year with El Nino. The thought is that we are right at the peak now and it's going to rapidly dwindle as we go into Spring and Summer.
"So even by late Summer, we might be in the opposite phase which would be La Nina and that is the cold phase that tends to suppress thunderstorms and give us warmer temperatures and then we might think more of a fire risk as we go later in the summer."
When is tornado season?
"Our tornado season is really Mid-May through the summer. We see that the very peak activity typically in June. In fact, the first week of June is the peak week for tornado activity in the state."
With above-average tornadoes last year, was tornado damage was greater than it usually is?
"Well, it's all hit and miss in Colorado. We have so much open country in Eastern Colorado that a lot of tornadoes will go across prairie and not hit anything and they might even be a very large tornado."
Compared to say, floods or lightning for example, how do tornadoes rate as far as a life-threatening events?
"We average on the order of three fatalities per year from lightning. Our tornado numbers year in and year out are fairly low. We had two fatalities in 2007 and one in 2008 and those were the last fatalities from tornadoes since 1962."
Is that a testimony to the effectiveness of good tornado warning system?
"A lot of people know what to do when tornadoes come, but some of this is luck too and time of day. It is [also] the amount of warning that people receive so there's a number of factors that go into that."
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