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Deadly Kentucky Tornado Had Roots in Weeks of Unusually Mild Air

  • Storm could end up in record books for its overall length
  • Winter tornadoes have been increasing in south central U.S.
A damaged home following a tornado in Cambridge Shores, Kentucky, on Dec. 13, 2021.

A damaged home following a tornado in Cambridge Shores, Kentucky, on Dec. 13, 2021.

Photographer: Liam Kennedy/Bloomberg

The violent weather system that tore through the central U.S. last week got its start in a confluence of moist air and mild temperatures that fueled “supercell” thunderstorms, touching off potentially record-setting tornadoes at a normally calm time of year.

The exact power of the storms, which killed at more than 75 people, has yet to be determined, but forecasters already know it was at least an EF-3 on the six-step Enhanced Fujita scale, used to measure tornadoes, said Matthew Elliott, warning coordination meteorologist with the U.S. Storm Prediction Center, the nation’s tornado tracker. While it isn’t unusual to have tornadoes pop up in this part of the country, aspects of this outbreak may set records.