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Illinois unusual leader in 2023 tornado count

By Richard Perrins, Accuweather.com
Investigators look over the Apollo Theatre following a tornado in Belvidere, Ill., on April 1. File Photo by Matt Marton/EPA-EFE
1 of 3 | Investigators look over the Apollo Theatre following a tornado in Belvidere, Ill., on April 1. File Photo by Matt Marton/EPA-EFE

It isn't unusual for Illinois to experience tornadoes. But this year, severe weather started early, and Illinois leads the nation in tornado reports, which is out of the ordinary.

The state has recorded 125 tornado reports this year as of Aug. 1, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 10-year average is about 54 tornadoes a year in Illinois, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

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This year has yielded the highest number of tornado reports in the state since 2006, when 144 twisters were reported, according to data from NOAA gathered by USA Today.

The increased tornado activity in Illinois means the state leads the country in reports so far this year. Alabama and Texas, both of which usually top the list, have had 93 and 78 reports, respectively.

Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather's chief meteorologist, said the above-average number of tornado reports wasn't unexpected despite being well above average.

In a typical year, Illinois experiences severe storms with a high risk for tornadoes from April through June, Porter recently told USA Today. But this year, tornadoes were recorded as early as January, February and March.

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AccuWeather meteorologist Scott Homan said the tornadoes have been caused by wind conditions interacting with the abnormally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The warm water provides increased moisture and energy into the storm systems circulating, causing them to become more severe, he said.

"Southerly winds draw a plentiful amount of moisture northward toward Illinois. The other factor is the very warm waters of the Gulf, where current temperatures are at about 90 degrees, and they have been running above historical averages for most of the year," Homan said. "All of these factors combined lead to situations where tornadoes become a real threat."

With Gulf water temperatures staying around 90 degrees and an upcoming weather pattern continuing to send storms across the Midwest, Homan said it seems likely the trend of tornado activity in Illinois will continue and reach a new record.

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