The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s administrator said Sunday that the swarm of deadly tornadoes that hit the Midwest and the South this weekend will be the “new normal” in the era of a worsening climate crisis.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Deanne Criswell told Jake TapperHer agency dispatched a federal urban rescue team to Kentucky as part of its efforts to help the six affected states. The twisters struck on a Mid-December evening with warm temperatures. They will aid localities with ongoing rescue efforts ― as officials already count dozens dead ― while FEMA will work with states and the American Red Cross to support short-term shelter and long-term housing needs.
“You know, I think it’s incredibly unusual. It is common to see tornadoes during December. But at this magnitude, I don’t think we have ever seen one this late in the year,” she said. “But it’s also historic. Even the severity and the amount of time this tornado or these tornadoes spent on the ground is unprecedented.”
When thunderstorm updrafts are losing energy, tornadoes typically last for only a few seconds. But once Friday night’s storms formed, experts said unprecedented strong wind shear appeared to have prevented the twisters from dissipating ― resulting in a disaster that lasted hoursAt 50 miles an hour, he covered more than 200 km.
Scientists are still trying to figure outThe Associated Press stated that many complex factors are involved when it comes to whether humans have caused climate change. An average of 1,200 tornadoes hit the U.S. yearly ― a number no other country has experienced ― according to the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.
Less than 10% of severe thunderstorms produce tornadoes, which makes it tricky for scientists to conclude climate change’s level of influence on the twisters, tornado scientist Harold Brooks told the AP. Brooks predicted that more tornadoes will occur in the U.S. during the cool season because warm winter weather is more prevalent as the planet warms.
“This is going to be our new normal. And the effects that we’re seeing from climate change are the crisis of our generation,” Criswell said. “We’re taking a lot of efforts at FEMA to work with communities to help reduce the impacts that we’re seeing from these severe weather events and help to develop systemwide projects that can help protect communities.”
“And so we will continue to work on helping reduce the impacts,” Criswell continued, “but we’re also prepared to respond to any community that gets impacted by one of these severe events.”
Jason Furtado, a professor with the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology, told the AP that tornado alley ― which describes the region where many twisters hit ― is moving eastward from its original Kansas-Oklahoma area, into the Mississippi River Valley and Ohio River Valley, where Friday’s tornadoes took place. According to Furtado, the changes are due to temperature and moisture increases as well wind shear.
Kentucky was among the hardest-hit states in the massive twister wave that destroyed entire cities and caused an increase in deaths. Gov. Andy Beshear told CNN on Sunday that the disaster was “the deadliest tornado event we’ve ever had,” confirming more than 80 Kentuckians dead and estimating the number will exceed 100.
“I’ve got towns that are gone, that just, I mean gone. My dad’s hometown ― half of it isn’t standing,” he said, saying the list of people unaccounted for in that town of 2,700, Dawson Springs, “was about eight pages single-spaced.”
“It is hard for me to describe. Although I can clearly see some visuals in these locations, it takes me a good 12 blocks to describe them. And it’s going to take us time. I mean, you think you go door-to-door to check on people and see if they’re OK,” he continued. “There are no doors. “There are no doors.” The big question here is whether someone is still alive in the rubble of so many structures. I mean, it is devastating.”