Tornadoes Can Strike Year-Round, Don't Be Caught Without a Plan

While hurricanes typically only occur in the Atlantic from June through November, tornadoes are a year-round threat. On average, approximately 1,250 tornadoes occur in the United States every year. The most active month is May with about 275 tornadoes on average, while the least active month is February with an average of about 30 tornadoes. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day, although their frequency tends to peak between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time.

Every state in the United States has witnessed destruction from tornadoes, but two areas tend to have the highest concentration of severe tornadoes. One of these regions is known as “Dixie Alley” and consists predominately of Gulf Coast states from Florida to Texas, with a peak in tornado activity seen during the late fall and winter months. The other area is known as “Tornado Alley” and extends from Texas to South Dakota. This area tends to have its peak in destructive tornado activity during the spring, with the maximum activity moving north as the spring progresses. For example, Oklahoma’s maximum tornado activity occurs in May, while South Dakota’s maximum tornado activity occurs in June.

Tornadoes cause significant damage every year. Luckily with improved warnings in recent years, the number of fatalities caused by tornadoes has dropped significantly. The deadliest tornado of all time for the United States is the 1925 Tri-State tornado, which devastated Missouri, Illinois and Indiana and caused 695 fatalities. More recently, the Joplin, Missouri tornado of 2011 killed 158 individuals.

Both of the costliest U.S. tornadoes occurred in 2011, with both the Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama storms costing over $2 billion dollars in damage. In general, tornadoes in more recent years have incurred higher costs, due to increases in inflation, population and wealth per capita.

Given the fact that tornadoes are a year-round threat, it is critical to be prepared. The tornado section of lists helpful suggestions in planning for these storms. For more information on the meteorology of tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center ( provides a valuable resource as well as NOAA's article on The Ten Deadliest Documented Tornado Events. In addition, Interstate published a informative infographic that provides some helpful tips on how best to protect your property year round.

About the Author:
Dr. Phil Klotzbach has received national and international attention for his work in researching weather patterns and forecasting hurricanes. He currently is lead author on Colorado State University's Atlantic basin hurricane forecasts which he releases every year with his colleague Dr. Michael Bell. 

Share on LinkedIn