April 2020 was one for the severe weather history books.
The preliminary count of 351 tornadoes last month is the second most for any April on record, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. All but three days in April had official reports of severe weather.
Fourteen separate killer tornadoes touched down – the fifth most in National Weather Service recorded history – taking 40 lives, the most people killed in a month since 41 in May 2013. The highest number of killer tornadoes reported in the US was 43 in April 2011, the worst month of tornadic activity in history.
And April is typically not the worst month for tornadoes in the US. That distinction belongs to May. April typically averages 258 tornadoes, while May sees 287 on average, according to the Storm Prediction Center, based on data compiled from 2010-2019.
The southeastern United States was hit the hardest in April.
On Easter Sunday, April 12, into April 13 there were 114 confirmed tornadoes with 32 fatalities. Twelve people were killed in Mississippi, nine in South Carolina, eight in Georgia, and three in Tennessee. It was the most fatalities in a day since 41 were killed on March 2, 2012, according to the National Weather Service.
One state that has been spared so far this year is Kansas, located in “tornado alley,” which has not had a single tornado yet.
“Statistically speaking, the northern Gulf Coast states and more broadly the Southeast is where we would expect to see tornadoes during the late winter and early spring. And this year was certainly no exception,” said Patrick Marsh, science support branch chief at the Storm Prediction Center. “However, as we enter mid-to-late Spring the climatologically favored areas for tornadoes begins to rapidly shift toward the central United States.”