USA having deadliest July for tornadoes since the 70s

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY12:51 p.m. EDT July 25, 2014

(Photo: L. Todd Spencer, AP)

The ferocious tornado that roared through a campground in Virginia Thursday morning killing two people raised the national death toll for July tornadoes up to six.

While this may not seem like many, it's the most tornado deaths in July since July 1978, when tornadoes killed 11 people, according to meteorologist Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla.

The worst July for tornadoes was 1893, Brooks said, when 73 people were killed, Brooks reports. Tornado death tolls were typically much higher in the late 1800s and early 1900s, before the advent of modern forecasting techniques.

KILLER STORM: 2 dead, 1 critical as tornado hits Virginia campground

In fact, before 1950, the use of the word "tornado" in weather forecasts was at times strongly discouraged and at other times forbidden, because of a fear that predicting tornadoes may cause panic, according to meteorologist Roger Edwards of the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

"This was in an era when very little was known about tornadoes compared to today, by both scientists and the public at large," Edwards writes on the SPC website. "Tornadoes were, for most, dark and mysterious menaces of unfathomable power, fast-striking monsters from the sky capable of sudden and unpredictable acts of death and devastation."

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Since 1950, when more accurate counts of tornadoes and tornado deaths began, only about one person has died each July in tornadoes, on average, Brooks reports. More than half the Julys since 1954 have had no tornado deaths.

The other killer tornado this July was on the 8th in Smithfield, N.Y, when four people died.

A woman walks through debris of a destroyed house after a storm struck the region, on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Smithfield, N.Y. The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado destroyed the homes in upstate New York where four people were killed.(Photo: Mike Groll, AP)