LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Severe weather is a common occurrence in the Midwest. But in November most people are thinking about snowflakes, not tornadoes.
"People can kind of be lulled into a false sense of security at this time of year as far as severe weather," said Dave Schmidt, Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in La Crosse. "Leaves start falling and we've had a couple of light snowfalls already, but these situations can occur if we get the right conditions."
On Sunday severe storms ripped through the Midwest. The actual number of touchdowns is unconfirmed at this time but the storm prediction center received over 80 reports of tornadoes and over 500 reports of damaging winds.
"To have this many strong tornadoes in November is a bit on the rare side," said Todd Shea, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in La Crosse.
Sunday's storm system took advantage of strong atmospheric winds and unseasonably warm and moist Gulf air, creating weather more typically seen in the spring.
Schmidt was forecasting on Sunday and could hear Emergency Management talking to other National Weather Service offices.
"As a meteorologist you're putting these warnings out and when you start hearing damage reports," said Schmidt. "That's when it really hits home."
But while this kind of weather is unusual for this time of year it's not unheard of.
"November tornado outbreaks have occurred through the years," said Shea. "The highest risk of severe weather like what was across the nation's midsection has come up about three times in the last 15 years or so."
Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa did dodge the worst of these storms, but November tornadoes have occurred in these states in the past.
"In Wisconsin we've only had 9 tornadoes in the month of November, in Iowa they've had 35 and in Minnesota it's only 5 tornadoes," said Shea. "So as you go farther south and east the frequency goes up a little bit."
Shea says Sunday's storms are a stark reminder that severe weather is possible anytime during the year, and it's important to be prepared.
"In our part of the country we're certainly not used to severe weather in the late fall like this, or even sometimes in the winter months," said Shea. "When there are those threat days people need to take it seriously and heed those watches and warnings just as if it was June or July."
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