(CNN) — The devastating tornado that killed 124 people in Missouri this week puts the United States on track for a record-breaking year — despite improved forecasting, warning systems and public awareness, weather experts say.
By 7:20 p.m. Tuesday, the death toll in Joplin had reached 124, making it the single deadliest tornado since the National Weather Service began keeping such records 61 years ago.
The tornado in Joplin brought the number of people who have died in U.S. tornadoes to 489 so far this year. The figure could escalate as rescue workers continue digging through rubble from Sunday’s tornado in Joplin, Missouri.
The deadliest tornado year on record is 1925, which had 794 deaths, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The number of fatalities so far this year is more than 8 1/2 times the average number for an entire year — 56, according to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.