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      U.P. tornado history and probability

      Tornados are not something we commonly see in Upper Michigan. They do, however, happen from time to time, as we saw a few days ago.

      Tornados are the most powerful small-scale force in the world, and the United States sees more of them than anywhere else in the world. Thankfully, though, Upper Michigan usually stays out of harms way, averaging just one per year.

      "They aren't that common. I think if you look on a national scale, too, you see the pictures, the videos of tornado that happen across the United States, but in the grand scheme of things, they are still relatively rare and elusive things," said National Weather Service Meteorologist, Matt Zika. Heat and humidity are two crucial ingredients for forming tornadic storms. But we've had plenty of hot, sticky weather this summer and no tornadoes. What's been missing?

      "The atmosphere hasn't been conducive for when we do have thunderstorms for them to rotate and then produce tornadoes. That's been the missing ingredient, really, is just the makeup of the wind blowing in the atmosphere," Zika answered. Every once in a while, though, the conditions are just right. That was the case on July 4, 1986.

      "It came out of Wisconsin, crossed over into near Faithorn, and then moved across Nadeau in northern Menominee County. That one was an F3 intensity tornado. It was associated with damage that was upwards of a million dollars," said TV6 Meteorologist, Karl Bohnak. Thankfully, strong tornadoes like that one and the July 1992 tornado in Gladstone are exceedingly rare. The main reason: Lake Superior, which tends to stabilize the atmosphere and inhibit strong, rotating thunderstorms. Still, any time you hear a tornado or thunderstorm warning, take cover. Every county in the U.P. has, at some point, experienced a twister.