The tornado that devastated the town of Saragosa, Texas, was one of several twisters triggered by severe thunderstorms across the nation's midsection in the past week and struck during the heart of the tornado season.
'It's that time of year -- the peak tornado season,' National Weather Service spokesman Paul Fike said Saturday.
'The heart of tornado season is April, May and June.'
Friday night's tornado leveled the small farming town 198 miles east of El Paso, Texas, killing at least 29 people and injuring 121 others. Other tornadoes in the past week caused moderate property damage from Texas to South Dakota but no deaths.
'Some areas have a higher frequency than others,' Fike said. 'The areas most prone are in 'Tornado Alley' -- Texas, across Oklahoma, Kansas, western Mississippi to Nebraska.' Other regions prone to tornadoes include the upper Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley.
'The whole area of the Plains is a battle zone (at this time of year), with cold air coming down from Canada and warm, moist air moving up from the Gulf of Mexico,' he said. 'The clashing of the air masses leads to strong, severe thunderstorm development.'
Tornadoes, often spawned by severe thunderstorms, are a violently swirling column of air extending downward from a cumulonimbus cloud. It is typically seen as a rapidly rotating, slender funnel-shaped cloud.
Texas leads the nation in the number of tornadoes from 1950 to 1984, as well as the number of deaths and injuries resulting from tornadoes. During that period, there were 4,050 tornadoes in Texas, resulting in 415 deaths and 6,489 injuries, according to weather service statistics.
Oklahoma ranks second in the number of tornadoes during that period, with Kansas third.