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Weekend storms signal deadly year

The weekend blitz of tornadoes in Kansas and the Plains puts 2007 on track to be one of the busiest and deadliest tornado years in a decade, severe-storms meteorologists said Sunday.
"Even if the year stopped right now, it would be the deadliest year we've had since 1999," said Greg Forbes, severe-weather expert for The Weather Channel.
The huge twister that leveled the south-central Kansas town of Greensburg late Friday, killing at least eight people, is the first tornado of the year rated at the top scale — EF-5, or "incredible," — of a new rating system adopted in February to measure intensity.
The tornado, which carved a 22-mile path and reached 1.7 miles wide, had winds estimated up to 205 mph, the National Weather Service reported.
The last one to reach such intensity was May 3, 1999, when an F-5 tornado — considered the most powerful under the old rating system — slammed an Oklahoma City suburb, killing 36 people.
"Considering that we're probably going to be close to 600 (tornado) reports already this year, this season is probably going to be one of the busier we've had since 1998-99," said Dan McCarthy, meteorologist at the federal Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. The annual average for the past 10 years is 1,272 tornadoes.
This year's 69 fatalities are more than twice the usual number by this date and the worst of the season may just be starting. The prediction center says May averages the most tornadoes each year, followed by June and April.


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