Here’s where tornadoes typically form in March across the United States
These maps break down March tornadoes based on where they begin.
The total modern tornado count jumps from about 1,600 in February to about 3,800 in March. In many years, there’s little doubt that “tornado season” — or when peak activity occurs — is on its way.
It is just the beginning of the rise of the tornado, as overall tallies double into April and triple by May. While the territory impacted by tornadoes increases significantly from February to March, the highest density areas most often remain somewhat close to the warmth of the Gulf of Mexico.
Depending on the averaging period, the month of March typically sees about 70 to 80 tornadoes touch down across the country. On a daily count, numbers pick up markedly as we progress. Research has found the current “start of tornado season” to be in the final third of March.
States that have not recorded a tornado in March dwindle compared to prior months, when much of the northern tier of the U.S. was shutout.
Besides Wyoming, and not including the District, the only states with no tornadoes in the modern (since 1950) record in March are those in New England. That area is one of the last to lose the grip of winter (see Boston this season), but also far removed from the warmth of the Gulf. They generally have to wait for the warmth of summer.
As we get into the peak season period, regions of enhanced tornado activity are seen across the southeastern states and also increasingly across the southern Plains. A large region bounded roughly by Illinois, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Kansas have all see notable March tornadoes.
The focus of consistent activity still does remain south though, for now at least.
The top 5 twister touchdown states for the month of March are: Texas (582); Florida (269); Alabama (257); Oklahoma (255); Mississippi (244).
Related: March tornado averages by state (SPC)
A large increase in spatial coverage of tornadoes in March compared to winter is seen in the county map of the country.
Whereas winter months see a very strong concentration near the Gulf and into parts of the Mississippi Valley in particular, March expands hotspots into the Plains and up parts of the East Coast as well as parts of the Midwest.
Still, as with the state depiction, the most intense coverage lies in a belt generally from Texas and Oklahoma back to the southeast through Arkansas, and off toward Florida. California is near peak activity in March, and every now and then tornadoes wander elsewhere.
By March, a top county count misses a bunch of counties that have high numbers, but here they are: Polk, Fla. (16); Harris, Tx. (14); Palm Beach, Fla. (14); Bexar, Tx. (13); Hillsborough, Fla. (13); Grayson, Tx. (13). (see data at the end for more)
For the fifth month in a row, NWS Jackson takes top honors (a dubious one) when it comes to tornado touchdowns within an NWS warning area.
Other cool-season and early-spring regulars like Little Rock and Birmingham remain in the top grouping. The southern Plains offices like Norman make a big move upward, one that will only continue to be evident in the next few months as the peak tornado region begins to shift north and northwest from the Gulf.
These five NWS offices rise above the rest when it comes to March touchdowns: Jackson, Miss. – JAN (194); Norman, Okla. – OUN (177); Fort Worth, Tx. – FWD (161); Birmingham, Al. – BMX (140); Little Rock, Ar. – LZK (135).
Latest posts by Ian Livingston (see all)
- Top U.S. tornado videos of 2017 - December 18, 2017
- A look at tornadoes by rating (maps) - June 7, 2017
- Best chase ever: Dodge City tornadofest of May 24, 2016 - May 24, 2017