Just barely more than three months into 2023 and the death toll of tornadoes has almost reached the average amount of tornado-related deaths for an entire year.

The National Weather Service confirmed that at least 63 people nationwide have died due to severe weather storms and twisters since January — a number closing in on the average of 71 deaths in a 12-month period in the U.S., reported CBS News.

A recent series of tornadoes hit the South and Midwest, killing 32 people across 10 states on April 2, bringing the death toll to 63.

Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras told CBS that the uptick in the number of tornadoes is caused —at least in part — by the storm pattern La Niña, which can make for frequent and strong tornadoes as warm and cold air mix during the spring and early summer. She said the strength of the tornadoes and whether they happen at night can impact the death toll and make it rise.

“Obviously, the more tornadoes you have, the greater the risk of deaths,” she told CBS.

The total number of confirmed tornadoes across the U.S. hit 367 this week, which is a 53% increase from the 239 reported in a four-year-average, per CBS.

Another factor in the death toll is sheer luck, reported The Washington Post.

“If you have outbreaks in unpopulated areas nobody dies,” Harold Brooks, a senior research scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, told the Post. “Most tornadoes that kill people, if you move the path a few miles it goes way up or down.”

But, compared to the more distant past, research that Brooks has collected shows the death toll is still 90% lower than from the years 1875 to 1925, reflecting improved responses to tornado warnings, reported the Post.

It’s uncertain what the coming months of April and May will bring, as they mark the beginning of the “most dangerous three-month period for tornadoes,” Jeras told CBS.

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