ALTO, Mich. -- This week's tornado in Alto -- combined with the three other tornadoes that occurred in late February in Niles, Dowagiac, and Vandalia -- have West Michigan off to an active start to the severe weather season.
Typically, no tornadoes occur in the entire state during the months of January and February, and only one or two are common through March and the first part of April. So, to have four in West Michigan this soon is quite unusual. However, the National Weather Service says an active start to the season isn't necessarily an indication of what's to come over the next several months.
"Given the fact that a lot of these set-ups for severe weather can be pretty subtle... that makes it a little more difficult, too," says T.J. Turnage, a Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids. "So it's hard to say whether what we've already had is going to be a predictor for how much severe weather we're going to have in the future."
Although there are signs that frequent weather features crossing West Michigan in the next two to three weeks could trigger more severe weather than usual, this isn't a sure bet.
"It's a little difficult to say," says Turnage. "It's always harder to say what El Nino and La Nina are going to do during the warm season, because there are a lot of other things that can drive the equation with how storms develop and that type of thing."