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/ Source: NBC News

This year's tornado season is off to a slow start, despite last week’s deadly twisters that devastated an Illinois town, forecasters said Tuesday.

The tornado count is 59 percent below average for the year-to-date, thanks mostly to the bitterly cold conditions that gripped the nation, keeping out the warm and moist Gulf Coast air needed to set off the spiraling winds.

“It’s the flipside of the very cold winter we’ve just had,” Weather Channel lead meteorologist Kevin Roth said. “The never-ending cold weather systems kept the southern air away for much longer than normal. What was bad news for some has been good news for others. It has been a really slow start to the tornado season."

January saw 25 confirmed tornadoes compared to the average of 40 while February had only two compared to the typical 36, Roth said. March saw 12 compared to the average of 78.

However, Thursday alone saw 17 confirmed tornadoes — including one that spanned nearly 20 miles and delivered winds of up to 200 mph, killing two people and destroying dozens of homes in Fairdale, Illinois.

Nine touched down in Illinois, three in Missouri, three in Texas and two in Indiana, the Weather Channel's severe weather expert Greg Forbes said.

Meanwhile, a storm system was set to bring heavy showers and thunderstorms across the South through Wednesday.

IN-DEPTH

- Alastair Jamieson