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 U.S. experiences more tornadoes than any other country, according to a 2013 report by Lloyd’s of London. Tornadoes accounted for 39.1 percent of insured catastrophe losses from 1995 to 2014, according to Verisk’s Property Claim Services (PCS). In 2014 insured losses from U.S. tornadoes/thunderstorms totaled $12.3 billion, up from $10.3 billion in 2013. 2014 losses were the fourth highest annual total on record, according to Munich Re. The number of tornadoes rose to 1,177 in 2015 from 886 in 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The costliest U.S. catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, occurred in April 2011. It hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and other areas and cost $7.7  billion in insured damages in 2014 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 $7.2 billion in insured losses in 2014 dollars. (See chart below.) The National Weather Service posts updated information on tornadoes.

THE 2014-2016 TORNADO SEASONS

Preliminary NOAA data show that there were 283 tornadoes in 2016 through April 17, compared with 213 during the same period the previous year. 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.  Year-to-date 2016 fatalities reached 9.

The number of tornadoes rose to 1,177 in 2015 from 886 in 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There were 36 direct fatalities from tornadoes in 2015, down from 47 in 2014, according to NOAA. May was the top month for tornadoes in 2015, with 381 tornadoes. There were 17 tornado-related fatalities in Texas in 2015, followed by 11 in Mississippi and two each in Arkansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

NOAA data show that there were 886 tornadoes in 2014, compared with 906 in 2013. On April 27, 30 tornadoes formed in seven states (Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana). Nineteen fatalities were reported. Many homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On April 28, tornadoes in five states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) resulted in 15 fatalities. There were 47 direct fatalities from tornadoes in 2014, down from 55 in 2013, according to NOAA. June was the top month for tornadoes in 2014, with 287 tornadoes.

 

Natural Catastrophe Losses In The United States, First Half 2016

(Based on perils)

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

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NUMBER OF TORNADOES AND RELATED DEATHS PER MONTH, 2015 (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 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®, a unit of ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business.

 

 

TOP 10 STATES, BY NUMBER OF TORNADOES, 2015 (1)

Rank State Number of tornadoes
1 Texas 228
2 Kansas 178
3 Oklahoma 111
4 Illinois 82
5 Mississippi 63
6 Colorado 52
7 Missouri 48
8 Iowa 46
9 Nebraska 38
10 North Dakota 35

(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, 2015 (1)

State Tornadoes Fatalities Rank (2) State Tornadoes Fatalities Rank (2)
Alabama 32 0 12 Montana 1 0 39
Alaska 0 0 (3) Nebraska 38 0 9
Arizona 3 0 32 Nevada 2 0 37
Arkansas 25 2 14 New Hampshire 1 0 39
California 13 0 23 New Jersey 0 0 (3)
Colorado 52 0 6 New Mexico 4 0 30
Connecticut 0 0 (3) New York 3 0 32
D.C. 0 0 (3) North Carolina 10 0 26
Delaware 1 0 39 North Dakota 35 0 10
Florida 24 0 15 Ohio 6 0 29
Georgia 24 0 15 Oklahoma 111 2 3
Hawaii 0 0 (3) Oregon 1 0 39
Idaho 1 0 39 Pennsylvania 12 0 25
Illinois 82 2 4 Rhode Island 0 0 (3)
Indiana 17 0 20 South Carolina 13 0 23
Iowa 46 0 8 South Dakota 26 0 13
Kansas 178 0 2 Tennessee 18 2 19
Kentucky 17 0 20 Texas 228 17 1
Louisiana 34 0 11 Utah 3 0 32
Maine 0 0 (3) Vermont 0 0 (3)
Maryland 3 0 32 Virginia 7 0 28
Massachusetts 2 0 37 Washington 4 0 30
Michigan 9 0 27 West Virginia 3 0 32
Minnesota 24 0 15 Wisconsin 20 0 18
Mississippi 63 11 5 Wyoming 15 0 22
Missouri 48 0 7 United States 1,259 (4) 36  

(1) Ranked by total number of tornadoes.
(2) States with the same number receive the same ranking.
(3) State had no tornadoes in 2015.
(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, 1996-2015 (1)

 

Year Tornadoes Deaths Year Tornadoes Deaths Year Tornadoes Deaths
1996 1,173 25 2003 1,376 54 2010 1,282 45
1997 1,148 67 2004 1,819 36 2011 1,691 553
1998 1,424 130 2005 1,264 38 2012 938 70
1999 1,345 94 2006 1,103 67 2013 906 55
2000 1,071 40 2007 1,098 81 2014 886 47
2001 1,216 40 2008 1,692 126 2015 1,177 36
2002 941 55 2009 1,156 21      

(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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