SHARECOMMENTMORE

by John Boyer, 13WMAZ.com

STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

-On Mother's Day 2008, an EF-2 tornado swept through Bibb County with winds of 130 miles per hour.

-It was one of dozens of tornadoes in an outbreak that stretched from the Plains to the Atlantic Coast.

-This area's longest tornado-free period ran from July 1985 to May 1989.

Saturday morning will mark five years since the Mother's Day tornadoes of 2008.

An EF-2 tornado swept through Bibb County with winds of 130 miles per hour. It was one of several in the area, and one of dozens in an outbreak that stretched from the Plains to the Atlantic Coast.

Damaging tornadoes don't happen very frequently in Central Georgia, especially compared to other parts of the country.

In an average year, 10 days have a weather setup that will prompt the Storm Prediction Center to issue tornado watches for Central Georgia.

Sometimes, that tornado potential doesn't translate to tornado touchdowns. The number of days in a year with reported tornadoes is much lower -- two (on average). Even the most active years may only have five or six days with tornadoes.

Some years can be very busy and some years can have no tornadoes. This area's longest tornado-free period ran from July 1985 to May 1989.

Most tornadoes happen in the winter and spring months, but hurricanes can spin up tornadoes when they come ashore during the summer and fall.

Any given spot in Central Georgia has a 0.037% chance of experiencing a tornado each year according to the Storm Prediction Center. The chance for a major tornado is even smaller. Only 7% of Central Georgia tornadoes are capable of severe damage (EF-3 or stronger).

There have been no EF-5 tornadoes in Central Georgia since the National Weather Service started keeping records in 1950. There have been two F4s: Warner Robins in 1953 and Eatonton in 1992. Violent and long-lived tornadoes are more likely in Northwest Georgia and Alabama.

Weak tornadoes and severe thunderstorms can cause damage and fatalities, however. Thunderstorm damage is sometimes viewed as a tornado by the public. The National Weather Service is trained to survey damage to determine the exact nature of the storm.

Despite advances in radar technology, some tornado warnings turn out to be false alarms. Advanced computer models could improve the timeliness and accuracy of warnings in decades to come.

(Attached map was compiled with information available through Iowa State University)