Tornados may be most commonly associated with the USA, but recent events are bringing to light the fact that here in Jiangsu, we live in another of the world’s hotspots for cyclones. A look at the historical record also reminds to be wary of the weather.
Wednesday, 20 July, saw tornados strike cities in northern Jiangsu Province. In Lianyungang, a storm left one person dead and 26 injured. An economic loss of over ¥15 million was estimated, while 3,148 buildings and 649 households sustained damage, reports The Paper.
With wind speeds of between 46 and 62 metres per second (165-223 kilometres per hour), yesterday’s storm would rank as EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, whereby a storm causes “considerable damage”. At the top end, an EF5 tornado, with wind speeds of over (320 kilometres per hour), which inflicts “incredible damage”.
Jiangsu has come close to experiencing the most powerful tornado possible. It was on 23 June, 2016, that an EF4 tornado touched down in eastern Yancheng City.
Reaching a maximum width of 4.1 kilometres, the storm levelled or heavily damaged many buildings of a masonry construction along a 34.5 kilometre swathe. Yancheng is a sea port; shipping containers were lifted up by the tornado and thrown hundreds of metres, as were vehicles.
When it was all over, the cyclone had killed 99 people and injured 846 others, of whom 152 were critically injured. The tornado was declared a national-level disaster and China’s deadliest tornado in almost 40 years.
Yancheng is in fact a popular destination for such extreme cyclones. Another of the country’s deadliest occurred in the seaside city on 3 March, 1966, when an EF4 storm killed 74 people.
According to data from the National Climate Centre, there were 38 tornadoes in China on average each year between 1991 and 2020. And topping the list of most frequent tornados is our very own Jiangsu, with an average of 4.8 per year, followed by Guangdong, at 4.3 per year.
China’s peak year was 2005, when there were a total of 75 tornados, while the year with the least was 2020, when there were just 13.
But wary of such extreme weather we must remain. According to Meng et al. in their research paper, “The Deadliest Tornado (EF4) in the Past 40 Years in China”, published in 2018, “It is important to note that, unlike in the United States and some other countries, there are no specific tornado warning products issued in the severe-weather-alert system in China, which is likely because of the rare occurrence of tornadoes relative to those countries. Instead, the potential for a tornado may be mentioned in a thunderstorm warning, together with the potential for wind gusts, torrential rain, hail, and lightning”.
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