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Wednesday, April 27, 2011, now marks the date of the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history, with over 270 confirmed deaths. Two days ago, more than 165 tornadoes were reported across the southeastern U.S. stretching from Alabama to Virginia. The strongest storms impacted Alabama — the death toll in that state alone may soon top 200. This devastating act of nature ranks only second to the “Super Outbreak” of April 3, 1974, in which 310 people lost their lives from 148 tornadoes stretching from Michigan to Alabama.

Spring provides the most favorable conditions for tornado development in the U.S. Large temperature gradients over the continent and warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico are the key ingredients for the formation of strong thunderstorms and tornadoes. Even so, this April looks to be uniquely active. With nearly 900 confirmed tornadoes already, the old record of 267 stands to be shattered.