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NOAA image of August 2004 tornado chart.Sept. 2, 2004 — A land-falling hurricane and a tropical storm helped push the total number of tornado reports to a record high for the month of August across the United States, according to the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. Preliminary numbers indicate a total of 173 tornadoes reported during the month, said Dan McCarthy, SPC's warning coordination meteorologist. Based on tornado records going back to 1950, this significantly tops the previous August record of 126 tornadoes set in 1979. Other high numbers for August include: 120 tornadoes in 1994; 115 in 1992; 112 in 1993; and 108 in 1985. (Click NOAA image for larger view of August 2004 tornado chart. Please credit “NOAA.”)

“The active tropical storm season can be partially blamed for the high number of tornado reports,” McCarthy said. Four named tropical storms affected the mid-Atlantic and Southeast seaboards during the month. Tornadoes frequently occur in the forward-right quadrant of a tropical storm or hurricane. This is the sector where wind shear is the greatest, he explained.

"The most active time for tornadoes was August 12-14 when Tropical Storm Bonnie moved from the Florida panhandle northeastward along a weak frontal boundary into the Carolinas. Hurricane Charley immediately followed, which caused extensive damage near Ft. Myers northeastward across Florida into the Carolinas," McCarthy said.

Even with all the tornadoes, only three tornado-related fatalities occurred in August. The three fatalities were caused by a tornado associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie that heavily damaged a trailer park near Rocky Point, N.C., McCarthy said.

More tornadoes are expected in September as forecasters closely monitor Hurricane Frances.

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Media Contact:
Keli Tarp, NOAA Storm Prediction Center, (405) 366-0451