Weather experts puzzled by high number of killer tornadoes

Deadly tornados are striking more frequently this year, forecasters say, but there's no one particular reason for it.

The country’s confirmed death toll this year from tornadoes is 98, more than double the average of 44 deaths annually from Jan. 1 through May 11, according to the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. The country averages 60 tornado deaths a year. “It’s been one storm after another, it seems like,” said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist for the Storm Prediction Center.

This winter into spring, the jet stream has maintained a persistent storm pattern that has especially pummeled southern Missouri and Arkansas. But there’s no explanation for the pattern other than random atmospheric forces, said Andy Bailey, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill. “There’s nothing that we can state that is causing it,” Bailey said.

With spring still in mid-stride, the U.S. already has withstood 27 tornadoes that killed people, Carbin said. That compares with 23 killer tornadoes in all of 2007 and 18 in 2006, according to the Tornado Project of St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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