Tornado Season – When Exactly Is It?

ridiculous-ef4-tornado

Have you ever wondered when exactly is ‘tornado season’?

Tornado season doesn’t span an “exact” time frame. It occurs at different times for different regions of the United States. The season typically shifts northward from early spring into the mid summer months.

The important thing to remember is that a tornado can happen any time of the year if the conditions are right.

That said, the following regions of the United States will experience ‘tornado season’ during these months:

 

Tornado Season

Gulf Coast
April

Southern Plains
May – early June

Northern Plains, Upper Midwest
June – July

Mid-Atlantic
July

 
The following map from Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) indicate tornado probability in the United States.

 
The date (tornado season) of maximum tornado threat for locations with at least 0.25 tornado days per year
tornado-season
Image: Climatological Estimates of Local Daily Tornado Probability for the United States (Dr. Harold Brooks)

 

Tornado Tracks Map

tornado-tracks
Image: uxblog.idvsolutions.com
Full size image (1920×1046)

 
Tornado Tracks by Month

Video link

 

Most tornadoes in a month

The record for most tornadoes in any month since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950 was set in April 2011, with 817 tornadoes.

The Widest tornado

On 31 May 2013, a deadly, multiple-vortex tornado near El Reno, OK carved an official maximum path width of 2.6 miles, the largest ever recorded.

The Largest tornado swarm

The greatest tornado swarm was 175 on 27-28 April 2011. Previous to that was the “Super Outbreak” of 147 tornadoes on 3-4 April, 1974. The 1974 outbreak holds the record for the most F5 tornadoes in a single day, with seven.

The Most deaths from a tornado outbreak (modern era)

In the modern era (1950 onward), the Dixie outbreak of 27 April 2011 (12Z-12Z) set a record with about 316 people killed

The Most deaths from a tornado outbreak

The “Tri-state” tornado of 18 March 1925 killed 695 people along a 219 mile long track across parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, producing F5 damage.

Average number of tornado deaths per year

On average, tornadoes kill about 60 people per year.

City with the most tornadoes

Oklahoma City.

Read more: Tornado Alley, Tornado Facts, And How They Form

 
Particularly during tornado season, it is extremely important for your severe weather safety and preparedness – to have a Weather Alert Radio.

Read more: Best Weather Alert Radio – Which One Should I Get?
 

 
Today’s severe weather outlook (updated daily)
Severe Weather Outlook

Tomorrow’s severe weather outlook (updated daily)
Severe Weather Outlook

 
Continue reading: 10 Ways To Know If A Tornado Is Coming

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23 Comments

  1. Thanks Ken… of all naturally occurring weather phenomenon, tornadoes scare me the most! This was one of the main reasons I wouldn’t consider the midwest, or “Tornado Alley” when looking to purchase acreage out of CA for retirement.

    1. If you look at a website called TornadoHistoryProject.com, you will see maps that show there is virtually no place in America that is immune from these things. Yes, there are areas that are more prone, but ALL states can get them.

      Personally, I prefer the tornado potential with its mile or less width as opposed to the hurricane which can have a width of hundreds of miles. Or, the earthquake that can shake and destroy whole regions. Just my personal preference – to each their own.

  2. Tornado’s are not something I give much thought to. I live where we get several each Spring but a tornado is very selective in how it does damage. Yes they are dangerous and can have the highest wind of any of mother natures storms. But they are like a sniper bullet as apposed to a 155 MM artillery barrage that hits a whole area like a hurricane does.

    I live in the Mid-West (Toledo Ohio) and Spring brings in tornado season and having lived here my whole life (59-years) I personally know not a single person that got killed. I do know someone that had his car tossed a few hundred yards when one hit Lake Twp. police station and ripped a school apart that was next to it.

    Pretty much everyone I know doesn’t give into worrying about then as it’s just not much of an issue for the most part.

    Hollyweird and the news terrorist (also known as weather men) try their best to scare the pants off us, but in truth it’s just not a big deal because the chance is so small that a tornado has your name on it.

    Over the years I also have observed a pattern in that tornado’s seem to skirt along the Southern edge of the city and then swing North a few miles East of Toledo. I live 5-miles North of the normal path they take. I think Lake Erie has something to do with this path. In the Winter they attribute a thing called “Lake effect snow” to the same weather patterns.

    With that said I do have several weather radios I listen to and with the alerts NOAA puts out I get reasonably up to date info and I also listen to the Skywarn nets so it’s not like I am not paying attention. More like I go on with my life and don’t let the threat of a tornado scare me.

    1. Chuck,

      I agree with your post. I, too, have lived my 69 years in “tornado alley”, have been very close to the paths of numerous twisters. I have never had an acquaintance killed or injured by one. Have had them come very close to me several times, and could view the damage from my property, but like you said, damage tends to be confined to a fairly narrow path. That doesn’t mean they aren’t deadly and devastating for those unlucky enough to be at ground zero.

      I live at an elevation that gives me a view of several miles to the the north, east, and west. In the past several years I’ve been able to see tornadoes form and travel cross country from my porch. While meteorologists say that tornadoes are not deterred by hills or changes in elevation, my observations conflict with that. On several occasions, I’ve watched twisters to my southwest approaching my location and as they bore down, suddenly veer to the south or north before continuing their northeastward path, skirting my higher elevation. Maybe I’ve just been lucky so far.

    2. Interesting to note those paths the weather takes. I also see our severe weather following interstate highways and rivers and then making a path AROUND the bigger cities – with a few exceptions here and there.

      But there does seem to be one major target for tornadoes – wherever they are. That being the trailer court.

  3. I hate tornados because they are so damned personal and not a democratic, like other disasters, such as earthquakes. To me, they are like demons picking and choosing.
    The ONLY natural disaster I have never experienced, and which fills me with the greatest terror is Tsunami! All my life I have been horribly afraid of them, had nightmares about them. I guess this must mean I shall probably be killed by one, or had been, in a previous existence. With age, this fear just keeps getting worse, to the point I do not like going near the ocean.

    I just can’t wait until some massive disaster occurs and the Atlantic comes for me!

  4. The season runs from Jan 1st to Dec 31st round here.

    Wanna test your bag go into the F5 devastation and live outta it for 3 days while you try and help and not be a hindrance to the Red Cross or other resources.

    Wanna test your NAV skills, go into it and try and find what doesn’t exist anymore. Oh and the main routes yeah forget bout them cause law enforcement has all them blocked to keep out thieves, lookie lous and idiots while the rest of us just wanna look for our kin or friends.

    You gotta do some on foot nav.

    All them fancy first aid skills ya think you got and that tacticool IFAK well that’s a great time to see just how short you fall in SHTF.

    I hate them for what they do to folks.

    1. Matt, Sounds like you’ve had some up close and personal interaction. Being in Oklahoma I’m sure you’ve seen more than most.

      I have seen devastation (next morning) one time when I was visiting my sister in Florida years ago. That night, a few miles away. Direct hit. I drove into the neighborhood, got out and walked. Was absolutely stunned by what I saw. Words hardly describe when you see it in real life.

      Wasn’t an F5 as you referenced Matt, though the damage was insane. When you see “sheared trees” like toothpicks, it’s mind numbing. The debris everywhere. The home damage. The personal loss.

      Someone made analogy to a sniper. That’s about right. Targeted absolute devastation.

      1. Yeah seen a lot. Maybe too much.
        This weekend is when I go through my storm shelter and replace batteries, water, check the radio etc.
        Please don’t wait on the sirens or .gov. You get a bad feel get off the X and in the hidey hole. I know we talk a lot bout OPSEC but your shelter is the opposite. Please register it and please tell your friends and family where it is so we know where to dig. Please stock it with simple items and please don’t wait to get in it.

    2. In disaster training that I’ve had, one of the surprises that EMS frequently runs across after a tornado is their tires get all stabbed up with nails.

      Maybe the lookie lous should be allowed in now and then so they can learn a four tire lesson.

      1. Yeah I carry a tire repair kit. No they shouldn’t though cause they then want the help of those who came to help the real victims. What they need is a bullet cause they are scum of the earth.
        And a deep breath….

        Extra fuel will be needed cause it takes double to get in with traffic, debris blockage and road blocks.
        Before I leave to go into an area I grab rolls of trash bags to help save what can be cause rain often follows. Pictures are second of my “to save” targets with lives of course being the priority.

        I ain’t much on people but this stuff is so hard and I try to be as kind as possible. You will see people in shock. One lady we was helping was scrubbing her hardwood floor bout an hour after it hit. Kinda pointless when ya ain’t got but 3 walls and no roof. Took some coxing to get her loaded up in the truck.

        Nah man 4 flats ain’t enough punishment for lookie lous. They need a black ops off site treatment therapy session.

  5. I do not like tornadoes but live in an area prone to them at least once a year. I’ve found from living many different places in this country that all areas carry risk. Pick the risk you think you can handle and make sure you are prepared for it. Weather/natural disasters choose when and where and happen everywhere in this country. I feel for anyone caught in one. I’ve been lucky and only had one that directly effected me. Our season here seems to be late spring early summer I feel silly saying that though since the worst one hit late summer. Go figure Mother Nature.

  6. Tornado Alley,
    Yea, I live here. The big ones, ef-3 or 4 or 5 get most of the attention. Beware of the little ef-0 and ef-1. They call them “rope tornadoes.” They look like that moniker. Not much more than a big dust devil, until they hit a building. They are not dust devils. These very narrow tornadoes, pack a punch. Witnessed one hit an old barn. Completely destroyed the structure. Lumber flew for 50 yards or more. They may only be 15 or 20 feet wide, at the ground.

    Many of these rope tornadoes, never make the news. Especially if they’re in a rural area. I agree with them following the same paths. I too, have seen this phenomena.

    When ya grow up with that danger, ya don’t spend much time fretting over them. Ya just gotta have a “fraidy hole” and use it, when the time comes.

    Remember watching the helicopter videos of the Moore, OK. tornado. Now that was a monster.

  7. MM,

    You said ” I’ve found from living many different places in this country that all areas carry risk. Pick the risk you think you can handle and make sure you are prepared for it.”

    Absolutely. Life has risks. There is no perfect location where we can go through life worry free. We can, to a certain extent, mitigate or lessen the impact of adversity by anticipating and making plans to handle the impact. The lie that so many fall prey to, that there is a Utopian existence available where there is no pain, or heartbreak if only you follow and support someone else’s agenda, is fantasy. We can only make the best out of the hand we are dealt, where we are at, with what we have. It’s a thing called life. We can let it tear us down, or roll with the punches, persevere, and hopefully prosper.

  8. Here in northwest Mississippi, everyday is potentially in season. We’ve already been under several watches/warnings this year.

  9. In 2008, I watched a storm spawn several tornadoes, one directly over our house. That was in FEBRUARY. We had some very minor tree limb damage, but a few miles away that same tornado ripped a warehouse complex apart.

  10. When is tornado season? Whenever Mother Nature decides it is! Had them in December in Tennessee.

    1. Yeah, Right about Mother Nature, Listening to the weather channel and seeing that Kentucky is getting hit. Tornadoes are something I have zero experience with, I pray that I never see one and prayers to all in harms way.

    2. Yep, I agree.
      Confirmed tornado about 60 miles southeast of our area.
      Last week in the mid 20’s, today low to mid 60’s.
      Crazy weather this winter. And winter temps and storms, for us, didn’t begin until a month and a half ago.
      Tornado season….. anytime, anywhere.
      Always be prepared

      1. I would imagine a tornado shelter could be a write off on the taxes. Sounds like a good reason for a bunker to me!

        Relatives in Arkansas have a safe room and I believe they are required in all new construction? Poured concrete walls with a solid steel door that opens in. It looked bomb proof, I hope they never need it.

  11. I live in Wyoming and it is very rare to get tornadoes here. My house was destroyed on 1 June 18. I am glad I wasn’t at home at the time. I had a double wide mobile home attatched to cement piers buried in the ground. The house moved 5 feet in one direction and 3 feet in another. The rebar never let loose from the piers or the house would have all been on the hillside with the rest of my buildings. The house was still totally destroyed. The damage was unreal. My dogs were in the house at the time and didn’t get hurt. Still don’t have my house replaced yet, hopefully soon.

    1. Trailers, mobile homes and manufactured homes are made with this substance that attracts tornado’s. It’s called ” trailermonium” and they all have a bit of it in them…

  12. – Reference to the Super Swarm from 1974 – I was missed (by about 15 feet) by the second F5 tornado when it tore down the building I was standing in. The hall I was standing in was the only thing left standing, the other two wings were reduced to swept concrete with nothing taller than linoleum. we were attempting to recover medical records an medications before they were soaked.
    One of my wife’s friends husband was picked up from his front porch , stripped, wrapped in sheet metal and his body was ultimately found in the top of a tree about 3/4 mile from where his house had stood. the friend had just gotten to the car and was opening the door when he stopped to pick up the lapdog from the front door. that was the last time she ever saw him. The dog was never found, only some skin and fur.
    – Papa S.

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