CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The weather couldn't have been much worse this past weekend across the southern United States. An unusual January tornado outbreak brought destruction across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.
So far, 19 deaths have been confirmed. This marks the most January tornado deaths in the United States since 1969 when 32 people were killed. Even more shocking is that in just two days, we've already exceeded the total number of tornado deaths we saw in 2016. We were fortunate in 2016 to only have 17 deaths compared to the average of 70.
What lead to the high death toll this past weekend? For one, many people were likely caught off guard. Even though this event was forecasted days in advance, many typically don't think about or prepare for severe weather during the winter.
Another factor was that many of the tornadoes occurred after dark. All but three of the deaths occurred very late Friday and Saturday night. There's a good chance these individuals never got any warning before the tornadoes struck. That is why it is essential that you have a way to get information overnight when severe weather is in the forecast. Take turns with a family member staying awake to monitor conditions. If everyone does go to sleep, make sure you leave your smart phone on (with the volume turned up) or purchase a NOAA weather radio so you can be awoken when a warning is issued for your area.
Finally, many of the deaths this past weekend occurred in mobile homes. While you are generally encouraged to remain indoors during a tornado warning, the exception is when it comes to mobile homes/trailers. NO mobile home/trailer is safe from a tornado. If you find yourself in one when a tornado warning is issued, vacate it immediately and drive to nearest permanent structure. This is a decision that could very well save your life.