Following the narrative of the past several years, 2015 was a bit of an odd one when it came to tornadoes.

The year started historically quiet and was that way most of the time from June-December, other than an unusually far west outbreak on November 16. On the flip side, April and May were both rather active in what is typically the heart of peak tornado season. While there were no super high-end outbreaks throughout the year, there were some higher-impact days, and actually quite a few photogenic tornadoes.

As we’ve done for 2012, 2013, and 2014, here are this year’s top tornado videos.

March 25 – EF2 in Sand Springs, Oklahoma
by Basehunters

April 9 – EF4 near Rochelle, Illinois
by Dave Walker

This one was also quite excellent.

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Large tornado near Miami, Texas on November 16, 2015. (Dick McGowan)

Large tornado near Miami, Texas on November 16, 2015. (Dick McGowan)

Posted at 9:30 a.m. EST November 17, updated briefly at bottom at 8:30 p.m. November 18.

In a year of tornado setups that seemed to generally underperform, one of the most impressive patterns of 2015 set off a sizable tornado outbreak yesterday.

Given the lack of events to talk about lately, I figured it was worth a quick dive into the rarity of what occurred last night across the High Plains.

The simple fact we’re talking High Plains tornadoes in November is probably a quick tip off to tornado observers. That’s more typically a late spring and summer thing.

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I was listening to Pandora when I heard a song mention a tornado. That made me think… how many songs mention tornadoes or twisters? Short answer: a lot.

A simple Google query of a popular website for lyrics showed over 500 songs. And it’s likely just a sample of the more well-known tunes. After perusing the results, a selection of the “best” music that mentions a tornado was at hand.

Just keep in mind the 10 (least best) to 1 (very best) rankings are generally quite relative here…

 

#10: Amanda Marshall – Inside the Tornado
(lyrics)

This song proves that to make a top 10 list for best tornado songs, you don’t even have to aspire to an average song. Of course, everything is clear when you’re inside the tornado.

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A long-track tornado near the Texas/Oklahoma border in the Red River area. This was near Elmer, Oklahoma, around where EF3 damage was verified. (Chris Streeks via Flickr)

A long-track tornado near the Texas/Oklahoma border in the Red River area. This was near Elmer, Oklahoma, around where EF3 damage was verified. (Chris Streeks via Flickr)

The 2015 tornado year might best be described as confused. It hasn’t been a full-time dud. The most active period brought a lot of tornadoes, and it came about when it should have.

However, like recent years, the oddities tend to outweigh normalcy. This year, one prominent story is the lack of big-time tornadoes. The one and only EF4+, those rated violent on the tornado scale, occurred way back in April.

Such tallies threaten a tie for the least number of violent tornadoes on record. And if you add in the much more numerous but still quite intense EF3 tornadoes, we find the story of 2015’s  powerful tornado drought is an even deeper one.

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These maps break down September tornadoes based on where they begin.

september-tornado-touchdown-conus-grid

The late-summer slide into the true tornado off-season generally continues in September. But tornadoes happen during all months of course, and September can have some tricks up its sleeve, especially when it comes to tropical cyclones and their remnants.

Overall, there’s fairly sparse activity across the eastern two-thirds of the country. The signs that the tornado region is shrinking back to the south are often noted as the cool and dry air of fall makes more frequent appearances.

Where tornadoes form: October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August

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hurricane-katrina-tornado-event-synopsis-map

Hurricane Katrina is well known for devastating New Orleans. As it made landfall on August 29, 2005, it also wreaked havoc along the coastline to the east, ultimately becoming the most damaging hurricane in U.S. history. Sadly, Katrina’s infamous statistics include causing more deaths than any hurricane since 1928.

Behind the main story of Katrina, it produced a lot of tornadoes as well. The storm presently ranks in at sixth-most twisters for a tropical cyclone hitting the United States during the modern record, according to the Tornado Project.

Katrina’s 59 tornadoes touched down across nine states as the storm moved from the Gulf coast up toward the Ohio Valley.

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These maps break down August tornadoes based on where they begin.

august-tornado-touchdown-conus-grid

By the time we hit August, there’s no denying that the peak of the tornado year is getting further and further behind us. However, August does rank higher than the six months that follow it when it comes to averages and overall numbers.

It’s actually quite a bit like July except that numbers are lower overall. The northern tier of the U.S. remains the focus of organized activity for the most part. We also often see heightened activity across parts of Florida, and Texas returns to the game after being knocked back a bit in July.

Where tornadoes form:  January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, SeptemberOctober, November, December

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These maps break down July tornadoes based on where they begin.

july-tornado-touchdown-conus-grid

July is often thought of as the beginning of post-season when it comes to tornadoes, but the reality is that the month is the fourth most active of the year. In fact, partly since it’s so warm across the whole country and storms are numerous, the month has seen several thousand more twisters than March, a month often thought of as a big one for tornadoes.

As across the warm season months, there is again a noticeable (if less stark because cumulative numbers are dropping) shift to the north and west for the most consistent tornado activity. The front range of Colorado and Wyoming continues to be a hotspot, but the states up near the Canadian border put up quite a fight there overall.

Where tornadoes form:  January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, SeptemberOctober, November, December

July averages about 120-135 tornadoes depending on the length of and specificity of the period used. That’s only about half of June’s total. So while tornadoes remain quite common in July, there’s a noticeable down-tick in activity most years.

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Going with the abridged version today because my work schedule is crap right now, and will continue to be. This will probably be the last “regular” forecast for this year, though I will issue special forecasts if a decent tornado setup comes along.

1-3 Day
20150623_tornado_forecast1-3
Tuesday

Mid-Atlantic, southern New England — TORNADO RANGE: 1-3 — CONFIDENCE: High
Expected Tornado Hotspot: None

Wednesday

Northern High Plains — TORNADO RANGE: 0-2 — CONFIDENCE: High
Expected Tornado Hotspot: None

Western Midwest — TORNADO RANGE: 2-5 — CONFIDENCE: Normal
Expected Tornado Hotspot: None

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The break for storm chasing and recovery is over, so it’s time to get back to making some forecasts! We are going to post a chasecation 2015 summary at some point this summer, with some extra details, stats, and even more storm pictures.

1-3 Day
20150615_tornado_forecast1-3
Monday

Eastern Wyoming — TORNADO RANGE: 1-3 — CONFIDENCE: Normal
Expected Tornado Hotspot: None
Pros: Good directional shear, decent speed shear, low to moderate instability.
Cons: Little upper-level forcing, concerns with storm mode.

Western Gulf Coast — TORNADO RANGE: 0-2 — CONFIDENCE: Normal
Expected Tornado Hotspot: None
Pros: Low to moderate instability, decent low-level shear, low LCLs, some semi-tropical forcing.
Cons: Weak mid-to-upper level speed shear, weak mid-level lapse rates.

Tuesday

Central High Plains — TORNADO RANGE: 1-3 — CONFIDENCE: Normal
Expected Tornado Hotspot: None
Pros: Low to moderate instability, good directional shear, decent speed shear.
Cons: Mid-level winds are a bit weak, lack of upper-level forcing.

Eastern Texas — TORNADO RANGE: 0-2 — CONFIDENCE: Normal
Expected Tornado Hotspot: None
Pros: Low to moderate instability, decent low-level shear, low LCLs, some semi-tropical forcing.
Cons: Weak mid-to-upper level speed shear, weak mid-level lapse rates.

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