Tornadoes and Thunderstorms

Facts & Statistics: Tornadoes

TORNADOES

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In an average year about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide, according to NOAA. Tornado intensity is measured by the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The scale rates tornadoes on a scale of 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage. It incorporates 28 different damage indicators, based on damage to a wide variety of structures ranging from trees to shopping malls.

The U.S. experiences more tornadoes than any other country in the world, according to a 2013 report by Lloyd’s of London. (See Executive Summary, page 4 of Tornadoes a Rising Risk? for additional findings and statistics.)

 

The Fujita Scale For Tornadoes

    Original F scale (1) Enhanced F scale (2)
Category Damage Wind speed (mph) 3-second
gust (mph)
F-0 Light 40-72  65-85
F-1 Moderate 73-112 86-110
F-2 Considerable 113-157  111-135
F-3 Severe 158-207 136-165
F-4 Devastating 208-260 166-200
F-5 Incredible 261-318 Over 200
(1) Original scale: wind speeds represent fastest estimated speeds over one quarter of a mile.
(2) Enhanced scale: wind speeds represent maximum 3-second gusts.  

Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

INSURED LOSSES

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country. Tornadoes accounted for 40.2 percent of insured catastrophe losses from 1996 to 2015, according to Verisk’s Property Claim Services (PCS). A March 2017 report by Willis Re found that the average annual loss from severe convective storms is $11.23 billion (in 2016 dollars) compared to $11.28 billion from hurricanes, based on PCS data. In 2015 insured losses from U.S. tornadoes/thunderstorms totaled $9.6 billion, down from $12.3 billion in 2014. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that tornadoes can happen any time of year. The costliest U.S. catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, occurred in April 2011. It hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and other areas, and cost $7.8 billion in insured damages (in 2015 dollars). That event was the 10th costliest U.S. catastrophe, based on insured losses, according to PCS. The second costliest catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, struck Joplin, Missouri, and other locations in May 2011. The catastrophe cost $7.3 billion in insured losses in 2015 dollars. (See chart below.) The National Weather Service posts updated information on tornadoes.

 

 

 

THE 2016-2017 TORNADO SEASONS

Preliminary NOAA reports show that there were about 529 tornadoes January to April 2017 compared with the January to April average of 239 for the three years from 2014 to 2016. These tornadoes killed 20 people in January 2017 compared with 17 in all of 2016.  There were four deaths in Mississippi on January 21, and seven deaths in Georgia on January 22.  In February there were four deaths: three in Illinois and one in Missouri. There were three deaths in April: two in Louisiana and one in South Carolina.

Preliminary NOAA data show that there were about 971 tornadoes in 2016, compared with 1,177 in 2015.  Seventeen people perished in tornadoes in 2016. On January 17, tornadoes developed in Florida with two fatalities. On February 23 and 24 tornadoes formed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia resulting in two fatalities in Louisiana, one in Mississippi and four in Virginia. February 23 was the most active tornado day in 2016, when 52 storms formed. On April 27, one fatality resulted from a tornado in Texas and on May 9 tornadoes in Oklahoma killed two people. On November 30, five people were killed in tornadoes in Alabama and Tennessee. 

Natural Catastrophe Losses In The United States, 2016

(Based on perils)

Source: © 2017 Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE; Property Claim Services (PCS®)*, a Verisk Analytics® business. As of February 2017.

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Number Of Tornadoes And Related Deaths Per Month, 2016 (1)

(1) Excludes Puerto Rico. A tornado that crosses state lines is counted as a single event in this chart.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service.

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Top 10 Costliest U.S. Catastrophes Involving Tornadoes (1)

($ millions)

      Estimated insured loss (2)
Rank Date Location Dollars when
occurred
In 2015
dollars (3)
1 Apr. 22-28, 2011 AL, AR, GA, IL, KY, LA, MO,
MS, OH, OK, TN, TX, VA
$7,300 $7,757
2 May 20-27, 2011 AR, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY,
MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NY,
OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, VA, WI
6,900 7,332
3 May 2-11, 2003 AL, AR, CO, GA, IA, IL, IN,
KS, KY, MO, MS, NC, NE,
OH, OK, SC, SD, TN
3,205 4,056
4 Oct. 4-6, 2010 AZ 2,700 2,928
5 Apr. 6-12, 2001 AR, CO, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY,
MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, OK,
PA, TX, WI
2,200 2,884
6 Mar. 2-3, 2012 AL, GA, IN, KY, OH, TN 2,500 2,608
7 Apr. 28-29, 2012 IL, IN, KY, MO, TX 2,500 2,608
8 May 12-16, 2010 IL, MD, OK, PA, TX 2,000 2,169
9 Apr. 27-May 3, 2002 AR, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MD,
MO, MS, NC, NY, OH, PA,
TN, TX, VA, WV
1,675 2,162
10 Apr. 13-15, 2006 IA, IL, IN, WI 1,850 2,142

(1) Based on data through May 31, 2016.
(2) Property coverage only. In addition to losses due to tornadoes themselves, amounts may include losses due to hail, wind and flooding during the same event.
(3) Adjusted for inflation through 2015 by ISO using the GDP implicit price deflator.

Source: Property Claim Services (PCS®), a Verisk Analytics® business.

 

 

Top 10 States By Number Of Tornadoes, 2016 (1)

Rank State Number of tornadoes Fatalities
1 Kansas 99 0
2 Texas 90 1
3 Alabama 87 3
4 Mississippi 67 1
5 Oklahoma 55 2
6 Illinois 50 0
7 Florida 48 2
8 Nebraska 47 0
9 Iowa 46 0
10 Colorado 45 0

 

(1) Includes tornadoes that cross state lines.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service.

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Tornadoes And Related Deaths By State, 2016 (1)

State Tornadoes Fatalities Rank (2) State Tornadoes Fatalities Rank (2)
Alabama 87 3 3 Montana 4 0 30
Alaska 0 0 (3) Nebraska 47 0 8
Arizona 3 0 32 Nevada 0 0 (3)
Arkansas 23 0 18 New Hampshire 2 0 36
California 7 0 27 New Jersey 2 0 36
Colorado 45 0 10 New Mexico 3 0 32
Connecticut 0 0 (3) New York 1 0 41
D.C. 0 0 (3) North Carolina 16 0 20
Delaware 0 0 (3) North Dakota 32 0 13
Florida 48 2 7 Ohio 31 0 15
Georgia 27 0 17 Oklahoma 55 2 5
Hawaii 0 0 (3) Oregon 4 0 30
Idaho 1 0 41 Pennsylvania 9 0 26
Illinois 50 0 6 Rhode Island 0 0 (3)
Indiana 40 0 12 South Carolina 3 0 32
Iowa 46 0 9 South Dakota 16 0 20
Kansas 99 0 1 Tennessee 11 2 24
Kentucky 32 0 13 Texas 90 1 2
Louisiana 31 2 15 Utah 3 0 32
Maine 2 0 36 Vermont 0 0 (3)
Maryland 2 0 36 Virginia 12 4 23
Massachusetts 2 0 36 Washington 6 0 28
Michigan 15 0 22 West Virginia 6 0 28
Minnesota 44 0 11 Wisconsin 11 0 24
Mississippi 67 1 4 Wyoming 1 0 41
Missouri 23 0 18 United States 1,059 17  

 

(1) Ranked by total number of tornadoes.
(2) States with the same number receive the same ranking.
(3) State had no tornadoes in 2016.
(4) The U.S. total will not match data used in other charts because it counts tornadoes that cross state lines.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service.

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Tornadoes And Related Deaths In The United States, 1997-2016 (1)

 

Year Tornadoes Deaths Year Tornadoes Deaths
1997 1,148 67 2007 1,098 81
1998 1,424 130 2008 1,692 126
1999 1,345 94 2009 1,156 21
2000 1,071 40 2010 1,282 45
2001 1,216 40 2011 1,691 553
2002 941 55 2012 938 70
2003 1,376 54 2013 906 55
2004 1,819 36 2014 886 47
2005 1,264 38 2015 1,177 36
2006 1,103 67 2016 971 17

 

(1) Excludes Puerto Rico. A tornado that crosses state lines counts as one event.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service.

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U.S. CONVECTIVE LOSS EVENTS, 1980-2015

(2015 $ billions)

Source: © 2016 Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE; Property Claim Services (PCS®)*, a Verisk Analytics® business. As of January 2016.

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U.S. TORNADO COUNT, 2015

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service.

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