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Are recent tornadoes in Delaware a sign of more to come?

Roman Battaglia / Delaware Public Media

The First State experienced three confirmed tornadoes last week, prompting some to wonder if Delaware should expect more to touch down in the future.


Kent and New Castle Counties took tornado hits last week - with one during Tropical Storm Isaias last Tuesday travelling almost 30 miles from Dover to Middletown.


But is this an emerging trend?  Do people need to start building their own tornado shelters?


Delaware’s state climatologist, Dan Leathers, says actually, quite the opposite.


“Only seven tornados since 2011. So I think the perception might be that part of that is because of what happened last Tuesday and often you’ll hear reports of potential tornado damage from, for instance, severe thunderstorms. But reports of damage don’t necessarily mean there was a tornado.”


The record number for tornados in one year remains 1996 when 6 tornadoes total touched down in the First State.


But, Leathers adds, there’s a lot of research into the effect warming oceans could have on causing more frequent and intense tropical storms and hurricanes, both of which can cause tornadoes on the east coast.


Delaware is also seeing hotter and wetter summers, which could mean more flooding in prone areas around Delaware in the near future.


Leathers is more concerned about rising temperatures and precipitation in the First State. 


“One of the other big stories from last week was the very intense precipitation event that occurred in New Castle County where more than an inch of precipitation fell in a five minute period. That’s a pretty incredible event that you would expect to see only once in about every thousand years.”


He notes higher flooding risks are associated with more rainfall.


At the very least more frequent and intense storms are not likely to go away anytime soon.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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