PEKIN — As cleanup in Tazewell County continued after tornadoes rolled through the area early Tuesday morning, meteorologists said they are not quite for certain what the spring season will bring.
National Weather Service in Lincoln Meteorologist Chris Miller said Wednesday that the Feb. 28 outbreak broke the record in Illinois with 15 tornadoes not only in one day, but also in the month of February.
Previously, the record was 12 in February 2014.
To see that many in February is unusual. Two tornadoes also touched down Monday in southern Tazewell County damaging buildings. March tornadoes are more common than those in February, said Miller.
The early storm season does not necessarily mean doom and gloom for the rest of spring.
“When we’ve had relatively warm winters and an early start — for example, getting some severe storms like we’ve had in late February and early March -— there is really no correlation between the two that we can make (to a heavy storm spring),” said Miller. “Some years have been very active in the spring and other years not so much.
“The thing about storms, especially when you’re looking at tornadoes, is that they’re all individual. So, they don’t really fit into a larger weather pattern that goes from one season into the next. It depends on if all of the right conditions come together for tornadoes to form or wind storms or hail storms to form.”
Miller said people need to tweak their thinking now.
“The main thing we want people to be aware of is that obviously we had this early start to the season. People aren’t used to being ready for storms right now — this time of the year,” said Miller. “They think, April or May (for storms), when things start getting warmer, but the reality is we’ve had warm weather already and we need to be aware of that right away rather than thinking ahead down the road.
“We’ve just had plenty of warm air that’s been built up in the southern U.S. that doesn’t have very far to travel to get up into our area, and actually, pretty dry conditions as well until recently with the storms. That’s caused warmer, dryer air to be able to be across our area throughout much of the winter. We didn’t have the really cold temperatures. We didn’t have very much in the way of snow at all.”
And Mother Nature is not yet finished with the roller coaster winter. Temperatures on Wednesday hovered around 60 and are expected to do the same Thursday, but a cold weather system is expected to drop down Friday with highs in the 30s and morning lows in the upper teens to 20 degrees.
“Winter is definitely not over yet,” said Miller. “I’m afraid people are going to get this false sense of security, thinking ‘OK, we’ve had storms, it has been warm, in the 70s in February and winter is over,’ when in fact we’ve got a cold stretch of weather that we’re looking at from this weekend into the first part of next week with maybe a little bit of snow to go with that.
“A lot of times we like to call March the transition season because the atmosphere is trying to transition. There’s still plenty of cold air up to the north up in Canada and all it takes is a strong northwest wind to bring that cold air down into us and the next thing you know our precipitation is falling in the form of snow or sleet or what have you.”
Miller said there is still plenty of warm air to the south and the northern cold and the southern warmth are “doing battle in the Midwest and we are definitely going through this transition where we’re going to go back and forth.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin