Tracking the tornadoes of 2016 (this project has been discontinued)

by Quincy Vagell and Ian Livingston


Posted: April 19, 2016. Last updated: August 1, 2016.

When it comes to tornado tracking year-to-year, a big item that has been missing is a near real-time U.S. tornado database.

A likely reason for the lack of such information is that there are many places to compile it from. It’s a daunting task to gather perhaps 1,200 tornadoes from potentially 100 or more sources. Nothing other than the Wikipedia compilation is public as a running tornado list, and Storm Data has at least a several month lag. The official tornado tabulation doesn’t currently show up until spring of the season following.

We attempted to disrupt that flow. We learned first hand of many of the difficulties of attempting a project like this. While we felt we offered up as accurate a look at the counts across the country as possible, we felt the product was always going to lack something we were looking for.

All the tornadoes of 2016 thru early June

Track length is measured in miles. Max width is measured in yards. Table data and top map as of June 9, 2016 with known tornadoes through the day prior.

A1/2JANMS7 ENE McNairEF0425000
A1/2JANMS1 WSW PeytonEF15.6220000
A1/2JANMS3 ENE CaseyvilleEF16.830000
A1/2JANMS1 WNW PinolaEF19.540000
A1/2JANMS2 S Mount OliveEF24.230000
A1/2JANMS4 W StringerEF13.927500
A1/2JANMS3 WSW PurvisEF18.422500
A1/2JANMS6 N EnterpriseEF01.57500
A1/2BMXAL2 WNW Beans CrossroadsEF13.448500
A1/2TAEAL2 SSE MalvernEF27.5950000
A1/2TAEAL2 N BacontonEF13.9920000
A1/2TAEAL1 WNW ArdillaEF12.5820000
A1/2TAEGA5 E StocksEF19.1660000
A1/2TAEGA1 E SawhatcheeEF24.4540000
A1/2TAEGA1 SSW CentervilleEF211.1100000
A1/2TAEGA1 SSW RowenaEF24.5750000
A1/2TAEGA1 N RiverturnEF13.7460000
A1/2TAEGA2 SSW CooktownEF19.97100000
A1/2LIXLAE KentwoodEF10.57500
A1/2LIXMSE MagnoliaEF1410000
A1/2LIXMSW TylertownEF1110000
A1/2LCHLA4 NE FieldsEF10.32000
A1/2LCHLA4 SSW RagleyEF12.810000
A1/2LCHLA3 WSW MamouEF00.52500
A1/2LCHLA2 SSE MeekerEF11.410000
A1/2LCHLA2 S MarksvilleEF1120000
A1/2LCHTX10 NNW JasperEF12.610000
A1/2LCHTX4 SE Trout CreekEF12.610000
A1/2LCHLA2 N OrettaEF11.25000
A1/2LCHLA6 SW LongvilleEF14.610000
A1/2LCHLA5 ESE BoyceEF10.55000
A1/2FFCGA10 miles SE LumpkinEF10.620000
B1/21JANMS5 WNW PurvisEF324.2900456
B1/21BMXAL3 WSW PutnamEF15.580000
B1/21BMXAL1 ESE WayneEF14.290000
B1/21BMXAL1 SW WetumpkaEF11.5445000
B1/21BMXAL2 SSE Blue RidgeEF10.6820000
B1/21BMXAL2 S Emerald MountainEF00.219000
B1/21BMXAL3 N Society HillEF12.8480000
B1/21FFCGA4.2 SSW LaGrangeEF15.620000
B1/21BMXAL5 S AuburnEF02.3815000
B1/21BMXAL5 N GoshenEF137.4740000
B1/21BMXAL2 NNE BeauregardEF01.0715000
B1/21BMXAL3 SSE OpelikaEF00.8215000
B1/21BMXAL2 NW CrawfordEF00.55000
B1/21BMXAL1.25 WSW Smiths StationEF10.7620000
B1/21FFCGA1 NW FortsonEF110.9540000
B1/21FFCGA4.75 WSW WoodlandEF01.910000
B1/21FFCGA2.3 NE WoodlandEF19.130000
B1/21FFCGA3.7 E Junction CityEF112.340000
B1/21FFCGA.75 SW UpsonEF25.830000
B1/21FFCGA1 NE UpsonEF15.320000
B1/21FFCGA4.6 NNE ThomastonEF00.810000
B1/21FFCGA4.6 NNE ThomastonEF11.917500
B1/21FFCGA5 SW MarshallvilleEF1910000
B1/21FFCGA8.7 SSE ForsythEF09.125000
B1/21FFCGA6 SE Fort ValleyEF21425000
B1/21FFCGA9.4 miles WSW of DanvilleEF04.310000
B1/21FFCGA4.7 miles NE of CochranEF14.410000
B1/21FFCGA1 SSE IrwintonEF15.810000
B1/21FFCGALake SinclairEF00.65000
B1/21FFCGA9 miles N of DublinEF02.310000
B1/21FFCGA5.3 SE WrightsvilleEF06.510000
B1/21FFCGA2.7 miles SSW of TennilleEF12.530000
B1/21FFCGA2.7 SSE TennileEF11.830000
B1/21FFCGA5 miles E of TennilleEF1930000
B1/21FFCGA1 SSW CanoocheeEF04.820000
B1/21CHSGAWNW LewisEF00.75000
B1/21CHSGAFive PointsEF00.7125000
B1/21CHSGAE SylvaniaEF12.4452500
B1/21CAESC4.5 N BarnwellEF213.6160001
B1/21SHVTX.35 WNW ScottsvilleEF2723000
B1/21SHVTX3.7 WNW JeffersonEF10.810000
B1/21SHVTX1.33 WSW SmithlandEF213.380000
B1/21SHVLA3.75 ESE Plain DealingEF210.999001
B1/21SHVLA3.89 SSW ShongalooEF13.4935000
B1/21SHVLA.53 NE NatchezEF22.0530001
B1/21SHVLA3.53 NW ColfaxEF12.2515001
B1/21SHVAR8.59 SW El DoradoEF12.877500
B1/21SHVAR10.94 ESE El DoradoEF00.615000
B1/21SHVLA9.5 SSW GeorgetownEF11.2115000
B1/21JANAR2 WNW HamburgEF00.665000
B1/21JANLA3 N Mer RougeEF19.2530000
B1/21SHVLA5 SE MarionEF00.695000
B1/21JANMS4 SSE Meridian StationEF27.350001
B1/22BMXAL1 N HaglerEF00.0320000
B1/22JAXGA10 WSW BaxleyEF10.110000
B1/22BMXAL1 NW ShoptonEF12.233000
B1/22BMXAL4 NE Tuskegee National ForestEF04.9220000
B1/22BMXAL1 NE Robert G Pitts AirportEF13.0854000
B1/22TAEGA1 S PascoEF218.7470003
B1/22TAEGA4 ENE Sand HillEF324.88700110
B1/22JAXGA11.8 WSW BaxleyEF111.1190000
B1/22TAEAL2 WSW I-75 At Exit 22EF14.8540000
B1/22TAEAL2 SW Grandberry CrossroadsEF15.5310000
B1/22TAEGA2 NNE Harrisons MillEF212.0740001
B1/22TAEFL1 W CreelsEF12.3535000
B1/22FFCGA4 WNW Red Store CrossroadsEF370.732200540
B1/22FFCGA3.5 miles SSW Cordele City CenterEF07.380000
B1/22FFCGA2.5 miles S of CochranEF12.210000
B1/22FFCGA1.0 miles NW of CaryEF00.65000
B1/22JAXGA4 miles NNE WillacoocheeEF13.03120000
B1/22JAXGA9.5 SW WoodbineEF116.6312000
B1/23MFLFLMiami SpringsEF12.312300

Search tips: While it’s not perfect, the search tool with the table above does work quite well. Try the drop downs for quick looks at various events, or by month, which NWS office has the most tornadoes and more. Typing in a rating like EF0 will bring up tornadoes of that EF-rating, and that also has a drop down. Did we mention you can stack the drop downs? Play around with it! Please note we have added “0” to track length and max width in order to allow the sorting features to work properly. “0” indicates the information is unknown.

[Tracking the current and near-term U.S. tornado risk]

What UNK means, and data may not be 100% accurate: In addition to tornadoes we have been able to confirm through NWS surveys, carried out and reported via various methods, we will also include UNK for an unknown rating. In many cases this rating will be due to tornadoes that have recently occurred — we’re talking visual or perhaps radar evidence — but have not yet been rated. The evidence is key here. We will not include reports that have not in any way been verified, even though they may be at a later time. We will include tornadoes we have seen personal evidence of, even if they are not shown elsewhere. As Storm Data is released, we will compare our numbers to those that will ultimately hit the official database next year and correct as needed. Occasionally, UNK may also be used for a tornado that is rated but its EF-scale details are left out. We go to great lengths to share accurate information, yet many of these pieces will continue to move for a while. Please consider it a bit fluid, especially when it comes to tornadoes in the past two weeks or so.

This experiment has ended

We tried. Not all projects succeed. In many cases, coming to terms with the failure is better than continuing it. After falling off the wagon of keeping up with reports, we have been compiling them in private for a future update while debating how to go about it.

The short story here is we don’t think we can offer an accurate and useful enough product to make it worth our time and effort. What we have gathered is as accurate as we can make it, but reporting standards across the National Weather Service are too messy to totally figure out as a small team of unpaid researchers.

As we’ve carried out the task of manually combining information from dozens and dozens of sources, we’ve found additional difficulties. Certain offices are very slow to update info. Often their updates will show up with no notice 6-10 weeks later. This was the case with the Dodge City area tornado event of May 24. Other offices never even report tornado details publicly.

While it is understandable that these things are fluid, especially when it involves surveying 30 or more tornadoes, our ability to track and backtrack is simply insufficient to capture everything.

We commend the folks over at Wikipedia for doing this as a group effort. It is not an easy task and the rewards are relatively limited. The project was informative, though. We have learned many lessons about how it is carried out and which offices excel at reporting tornadoes compared to others.

In the current age of data, we would like to underscore our initial hope that doing this would lead the National Weather Service to figure out a way to keep relatively updated numbers and lists going throughout the year. This data could be listed as preliminary and subject to change, but actual numbers would be hugely useful compared to reports which are often duplicated, triplicated, or even totally miss tornadoes. Reporting and response would be greatly served with better numbers throughout the year.

NWS should expedite a way to get this done. The data is already gathered. It would likely take a fraction of additional time to compile it in a sortable list fashion similar to what is presented here.

Old Imagery

As of June 9


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Defense and foreign policy researcher at a D.C. think tank. Information lead for the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang.