President Donald Trump today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Mississippi and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding.
The action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in four Mississippi counties including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Gov. Phil Bryant asked Trump to issue a disaster declaration for four Mississippi counties following tornadoes Saturday.
Between 21 and 23 January 2017, a swarm of at least 60 tornadoes devastated communities in six southern states from Louisiana to Florida to South Carolina, resulting in at least twenty deaths.
The small town of Adel, Georgia suffered at least seven fatalities during the complete destruction of an entire mobile home park. The mayor of that town said on Monday: “If you were to see it today, it’s like a war zone.”
The tornado outbreak was one of the largest on record not only for January, but for any winter month, according to data from the National Weather Service.
Over a roughly 48-hour period from the morning of Jan. 21 through Jan. 23, at least 60 tornadoes have been confirmed either by National Weather Service damage surveys or dual-polarization radar in eight southern states from Texas and Arkansas to Florida to South Carolina.
This outbreak has now pushed the tornado count for January 2017 to 111, the second highest total for any January on record since 1950, and only the second time that count has topped 100, according to Forbes. January 1999 had an incredible 212 tornadoes.
According Weather Channel expert Dr. Greg Forbes, the outbreak spawned the second largest number of tornadoes for any January, except 1999, and it was the third largest on record for any winter month of December, January or February in reliable records dating to 1950.
Violent winds from a hurricane or tornado, lightning from thunderstorms, and rising floodwaters are among significant weather events that residents of the nation have to endure every year but what actually produces the greatest number of fatalities is heat.
Many of these events, including heat waves and heavy rainfall, are likely to become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.
Climate change can also worsen the impacts of some events. For example, sea level rise can increase the impacts of coastal storms and warming can place more stress on water supplies during droughts.
Tornadoes are formed by a combination of atmospheric instability and wind shear. Instability occurs when warm, moist air is wedged under drier, cooler air aloft. This warm air rises, causing the intense updrafts and downdrafts seen in strong thunderstorms — the incubators of tornadoes. Wind shear refers to changes in wind direction and speed at different elevations in the atmosphere. The combination of instability and wind shear forms the rotating column of air that we associate with a tornado. Tornadoes that form over water are known as waterspouts.
Trump’s administration has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website, two agency employees, and after the 45th president was inaugurated, a range of information on the White House website related to climate change was moved to an Obama online archive.
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