We think of tornadoes as a spring/summer phenomenon, but tornadoes do occur in winter. Occasionally, we even get winter tornadoes here in the Southern Great Lakes. There were several tornadoes in SW Michigan on Feb. 28, 2017 and on January 7, 2008, a rare EF3 tornado with winds of 150-160 mph tore through SE Wisconsin. A tornado that day in NE Illinois knocked a train off the tracks – which you can see in this amazing video.
This map shows the probability of a significant tornado on Feb. 20. There is actually a higher chance of a significant tornado in Mississippi and Alabama in late February than in July or August.
This is a map of the 26 Tornado Watches that we have already had in 2020…from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico and from Central Oklahoma and Texas to the Atlantic Ocean.
So far this year, we’ve had 141 reported tornadoes in the U.S. The average-to-date is 87. Years that start with a high tornado count generally end with a high tornado count. There is wide variation. In 2008, the U.S. had 353 torndoes by Feb. 18. In the very cold winter of 2014, we had only 4 tornadoes from Jan. 1 – Feb. 18.
This year we have already had 8 tornado fatalities from 4 different tornadoes on 3 different days. Over the past 3 1/2 years, we’ve had far more tornado fatalities in winter than in summer. In fact, the month with the most tornado fatalities is January with 27, then March with 23, followed by April with 11, May with 10 and February with 9. There were 4 tornado deaths in December and in October, 3 in November, 1 each in July and September and none in June and August.
Our first Skywarn Spotters Severe Weather Seminar is coming up next Tuesday evening. It’s free, but we’d like you to preregister here. If you’d like to be a severe weather spotter, or if you’d just like to learn about severe weather, then try and get to this class. Here’s a complete list of these free classes offered this late/winter spring in West Michigan and in Northern Indiana.