The largest tornado outbreaks of 2017

by Katie Wheatley, Ian Livingston, and Mitch Feiler

2017 is off to a quick start for the tornado outbreak tracker. Last year we didn’t start compiling until late February. This year, an outbreak hit on the second day of the new year and one of the largest winter tornado events on record struck in late January.

Since that time, additional outbreaks have struck in each month and active times continue as we drift through April.

As in the past, we’ll continue to use a 20 confirmed tornado count as the baseline for this outbreak tracker. While there is plenty of argument about what constitutes an outbreak, there is little doubt some of the low numbers accepted in the past are too low for today’s reporting environment. We feel that using 20 as a base removes most questions as to an event’s legitimacy as notable in most years.

Posted: January 5, 2017. Last updated: April 5, 2017.

Large tornado outbreaks of 2017

Events with at least 20 confirmed tornadoes

(A) January 2, 2017 | 35 confirmed tornadoes, 35 reports, 37 warnings, 4 watches
January 2 SPC event page

A typical cold-season tornado event, low pressure moved across parts of the South spawning severe weather and tornadoes. Many of the tornadoes came from line segments of storms known as quasi-linear convective systems. A larger convective system also created numerous wind damage reports, and in Alabama four people died from straight line winds.

(B) January 21-23, 2017 | 81 confirmed tornadoes, 93 reports, 198 warnings, 14 watches
Jan. 20 SPC event page | Jan. 21 SPC event page | Jan. 22 SPC event page

This classic high-end severe weather pattern set up the deadliest few days of tornadoes in over a year. It was also among the largest tornado outbreaks on record during the winter. More people were killed in this series of tornado volleys than all of 2016. We also saw the first “High Risk” from the Storm Prediction Center since 2014, although it ended up not being the biggest tornado day of the bunch.

(C) Feb. 28-Mar. 1, 2017 | 65 confirmed tornadoes, 86 reports, 101 warnings, 12 watches
Feb. 28 SPC event page | Mar. 1 SPC event page

A powerful late-winter jet stream overspread a warm and unstable air mass hanging out in much of the eastern half of the country, touching off a major early-season severe weather outbreak. Tornadoes were focused across parts of the Midwest and upper Mid-South. Several high-end tornadoes impacted parts of Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana. Long-track tornadoes across southern Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana were somewhat reminiscent of the great Tri-State event of 1925.

(D) Mar. 6-7, 2017 | 54 confirmed tornadoes, 79 reports, 90 warnings, 6 watches
Mar. 6 SPC event page

Another in a late-winter and early-spring volley of storm systems, this one was the farthest west outbreak so far this year. While many of the tornadoes were QLCS-type, spinning up within lines and broken lines, several supercells dropped tornadoes as well. The Kansas City area was particularly hard hit as an EF3 struck east of town. Fortunately, no one was killed despite relatively high impact.

(E) Apr. 2-3, 2017 | 31 confirmed tornadoes, 40 reports, 96 warnings, 10 watches
Apr. 2 SPC event page | Apr. 3 SPC event page

surveys still ongoing – details will be added to database below once closer to final

The South took on yet another outbreak, and sadly more tornado deaths occurred in this event. At least three people were confirmed killed over the two days. The first day of this outbreak included an infrequent “high risk” from the Storm Prediction Center, the second such issuance this year. Interestingly enough, no tornadoes of EF3+ strength have been confirmed, which is unusual for a “high risk” event.

The top events based on confirmed tornadoes

#1: January 21-23, 81 tornadoes (B)
#2: February 28-March 1, 65 tornadoes (C)
#3: March 6-7, 54 tornadoes (D)
#4: January 2, 35 tornadoes (A)
#5: April 2-3, 31 tornadoes (E)

Outbreak tornadoes

OUTBREAKDATEOFFICESTATELOCRATINGLENGTHWIDTHFATALINJ
A2-JanJANMS7 ENE McNairEF0425000
A2-JanJANMS1 WSW PeytonEF15.6220000
A2-JanJANMS3 ENE CaseyvilleEF16.830000
A2-JanJANMS1 WNW PinolaEF19.540000
A2-JanJANMS2 S Mount OliveEF24.230000
A2-JanJANMS4 W StringerEF13.927500
A2-JanJANMS3 WSW PurvisEF18.422500
A2-JanJANMS6 N EnterpriseEF01.57500
A2-JanBMXAL2 WNW Beans CrossroadsEF13.448500
A2-JanTAEAL2 SSE MalvernEF27.5950000
A2-JanTAEAL2 N BacontonEF13.9920000
A2-JanTAEAL1 WNW ArdillaEF12.5820000
A2-JanTAEGA5 E StocksEF19.1660000
A2-JanTAEGA1 E SawhatcheeEF24.4540000
A2-JanTAEGA1 SSW CentervilleEF211.1100000
A2-JanTAEGA1 SSW RowenaEF24.5750000
A2-JanTAEGA1 N RiverturnEF13.7460000
A2-JanTAEGA2 SSW CooktownEF19.97100000
A2-JanLIXLAE KentwoodEF10.57500
A2-JanLIXMSE MagnoliaEF1410000
A2-JanLIXMSW TylertownEF1110000
A2-JanLIXLABushEF00.0170455500
A2-JanLCHLA4 NE FieldsEF10.32000
A2-JanLCHLA4 SSW RagleyEF12.810000
A2-JanLCHLA3 WSW MamouEF00.52500
A2-JanLCHLA2 SSE MeekerEF11.410000
A2-JanLCHLABunkieEF11.620000
A2-JanLCHLAHessmerEF12.420000
A2-JanLCHLA2 S MarksvilleEF1120000
A2-JanLCHTX10 NNW JasperEF12.610000
A2-JanLCHTX4 SE Trout CreekEF12.610000
A2-JanLCHLA2 N OrettaEF11.25000
A2-JanLCHLA6 SW LongvilleEF14.610000
A2-JanLCHLA5 ESE BoyceEF10.55000
A2-JanFFCGA10 miles SE LumpkinEF10.620000
B21-JanJANMS5 WNW PurvisEF324.2900456
B21-JanBMXAL3 WSW PutnamEF15.580000
B21-JanBMXAL1 ESE WayneEF14.290000
B21-JanBMXAL1 SW WetumpkaEF11.5445000
B21-JanBMXAL2 SSE Blue RidgeEF10.6820000
B21-JanBMXAL2 S Emerald MountainEF00.219000
B21-JanBMXAL3 N Society HillEF12.8480000
B21-JanFFCGA4.2 SSW LaGrangeEF15.620000
B21-JanBMXAL5 S AuburnEF02.3815000
B21-JanBMXAL5 N GoshenEF137.4740000
B21-JanBMXAL2 NNE BeauregardEF01.0715000
B21-JanBMXAL3 SSE OpelikaEF00.8215000
B21-JanBMXAL2 NW CrawfordEF00.55000
B21-JanBMXAL1.25 WSW Smiths StationEF10.7620000
B21-JanFFCGA1 NW FortsonEF110.9540000
B21-JanFFCGA4.75 WSW WoodlandEF01.910000
B21-JanFFCGA2.3 NE WoodlandEF19.130000
B21-JanFFCGA3.7 E Junction CityEF112.340000
B21-JanFFCGA.75 SW UpsonEF25.830000
B21-JanFFCGA1 NE UpsonEF15.320000
B21-JanFFCGA4.6 NNE ThomastonEF00.810000
B21-JanFFCGA4.6 NNE ThomastonEF11.917500
B21-JanFFCGA5 SW MarshallvilleEF1910000
B21-JanFFCGA8.7 SSE ForsythEF09.125000
B21-JanFFCGA6 SE Fort ValleyEF21425000
B21-JanFFCGA9.4 miles WSW DanvilleEF04.310000
B21-JanFFCGA4.7 miles NE CochranEF14.410000
B21-JanFFCGA1 SSE IrwintonEF15.810000
B21-JanFFCGALake SinclairEF00.65000
B21-JanFFCGA9 miles N DublinEF02.310000
B21-JanFFCGAMilledgevilleEF10.537000
B21-JanFFCGA5.3 SE WrightsvilleEF06.510000
B21-JanFFCGA2.7 miles SSW TennilleEF12.530000
B21-JanFFCGA2.7 SSE TennileEF11.830000
B21-JanFFCGA5 miles E TennilleEF1930000
B21-JanFFCGA1 SSW CanoocheeEF04.820000
B21-JanCAEGAMidvilleEF01.325000
B21-JanCAEGARosierEF01.510000
B21-JanCAEGAWaynesboroEF117500
B21-JanCHSGAWNW LewisEF00.75000
B21-JanCHSGAFive PointsEF00.7125000
B21-JanCHSGAE SylvaniaEF12.4452500
B21-JanCAESC4.5 N BarnwellEF213.6160001
B21-JanCAESCCopeEF15.540000
B21-JanSHVTX.35 WNW ScottsvilleEF2723000
B21-JanSHVTX3.7 WNW JeffersonEF10.810000
B21-JanSHVTX1.33 WSW SmithlandEF213.380000
B21-JanSHVLA3.75 ESE Plain DealingEF210.999001
B21-JanSHVLA3.89 SSW ShongalooEF13.4935000
B21-JanSHVLA.53 NE NatchezEF22.0530001
B21-JanSHVLA3.53 NW ColfaxEF12.2515001
B21-JanSHVAR8.59 SW El DoradoEF12.877500
B21-JanSHVAR10.94 ESE El DoradoEF00.615000
B21-JanSHVLA9.5 SSW GeorgetownEF11.2115000
B21-JanSHVLAJenaEF10.1510000
B21-JanJANAR2 WNW HamburgEF00.665000
B21-JanJANLA3 N Mer RougeEF19.2530000
B21-JanSHVLA5 SE MarionEF00.695000
B21-JanJANMS4 SSE Meridian StationEF27.350001
B22-JanBMXAL1 N HaglerEF00.0320000
B22-JanBMXALOneontaEF11.4100000
B22-JanCHSGAWillieEF10.14265000
B22-JanJAXGA10 WSW BaxleyEF10.110000
B22-JanBMXAL1 NW ShoptonEF12.233000
B22-JanBMXAL4 NE Tuskegee National ForestEF04.9220000
B22-JanBMXAL1 NE Robert G Pitts AirportEF13.0854000
B22-JanTAEGA1 S PascoEF218.7470003
B22-JanTAEGA4 ENE Sand HillEF324.88700110
B22-JanJAXGA11.8 WSW BaxleyEF111.1190000
B22-JanTAEAL2 WSW I-75 At Exit 22EF14.8540000
B22-JanTAEAL2 SW Grandberry CrossroadsEF15.5310000
B22-JanTAEGA2 NNE Harrisons MillEF212.0740001
B22-JanTAEFL1 W CreelsEF12.3535000
B22-JanFFCGA4 WNW Red Store CrossroadsEF370.732200540
B22-JanFFCGA3.5 miles SSW Cordele City CenterEF07.380000
B22-JanFFCGA2.5 miles S CochranEF12.210000
B22-JanFFCGA1.0 miles NW CaryEF00.65000
B22-JanJAXGA4 miles NNE WillacoocheeEF13.03120000
B22-JanJAXGA9.5 SW WoodbineEF116.6312000
B23-JanMFLFLLoxahatcheeEF11813000
B23-JanMFLFLMiami SpringsEF12.312300
C28-FebDVNIL5.3 SW BradfordEF15.5110000
C28-FebLOTIL2.2 NW Cedar PointEF01.755000
C28-FebLOTIL3.5 SW NaplateEF311.5800214
C28-FebDVNIL2.7 ESE ColetaEF12.637500
C28-FebDVNIAFolletsEF00.042500
C28-FebLOTIL2.2 N MarseillesEF112500
C28-FebLOTIL5 NNE SenecaEF01.220000
C28-FebLOTILOregonEF12.820000
C28-FebILX/LOTIL3.5 W WashburnEF31860000
C28-FebLOTIL2.8 NW DanaEF24.57500
C28-FebLSXMO4 WSW LestervilleEF14.58000
C28-FebLZKAR1 W HigginsonEF11.412004
C28-FebLZKAR1.5 SSW KensettEF201
C28-FebLSXMO11.5 WNW FredericktownEF04.55000
C28-FebPAHMO4.8 NW PerryvilleEF450.41,056112
C28-FebLSXMO1.5 miles SW RockwoodEF23.170000
C28-FebIWXMINilesEF10.610000
C28-FebIWXMI4.3 SW DowagiacEF1510000
C28-FebIWXMI3.3 SW VandaliaEF12.715000
C28-FebDVNIL2 W CherryEF12.345000
C28-FebPAHIL4.2 NE CarmiEF344.644012
C28-FebSGFKS1 Southeast HelperEF10.17500
C28-FebPAHIL2.2 miles southeast CartervilleEF17.52500
C28-FebSGFKS1 NNE FarlingtonEF00.17500
C28-FebPAHKY5 NE LintonEF17.1340000
C1-MarSGFMO3 miles northwest BuffaloEF0110000
C1-MarSGFMO4 west-southwest LebanonEF10.19000
C1-MarLZKAR1.0 S LamarEF10.120000
C1-MarLZKAR4.9 ENE ClevelandEF1125000
C1-MarLZKAR3.0 SW FormosaEF01.15000
C1-MarILNOHSouth LeesburgEF0725000
C1-MarLZKAR2.0 ENE FairbanksEF13.925000
C1-MarILNOHGreenfieldEF04.610000
C1-MarLZKAR3.3 SW Possum GrapeEF14.220000
C1-MarLZKAR0.2 SE DiazEF11.612500
C1-MarILNOHAmeliaEF16.415000
C1-MarPAHIL8.4 miles WSW CarbondaleEF04.12500
C1-MarPAHMO4 SSE SikestonEF115.320000
C1-MarINDINWashingtonEF20.153000
C1-MarINDINMontgomeryEF10.032500
C1-MarINDINMontgomeryEF20.243000
C1-MarINDINMontgomeryEF10.043000
C1-MarPAHKY0.5 ESE Cuba KentuckyEF21.520000
C1-MarINDIN2 W MitchellEF10.24000
C1-MarINDIN7 SE MitchellEF20.582500
C1-MarLMKIN2.5 NE LeipsicEF10.12501
C1-MarLMKIN1.25 Miles NNE SaltilloEF1510000
C1-MarINDIN9.2 W CrothersvilleEF20.255000
C1-MarLMKINBordenEF10.252000
C1-MarLMKIN4 SSW ScottsburgEF1210003
C1-MarLMKKYButler CountyEF119000
C1-MarLMKKY2N CampbellsburgEF1120000
C1-MarILNOHAnderson TownshipEF01.0435000
C1-MarILNOHNew MarketEF12.215000
C1-MarLMKKY11 SE Bowling GreenEF1312500
C1-MarOHXTN2.5 North-Northwest FranklinEF110.2525000
C1-MarOHXTNCool SpringsEF100
C1-MarOHXTN5 Miles North Northwest NolensvilleEF14.620000
C1-MarOHXTN3 Miles West Southwest WatertownEF15.7530000
C1-MarOHXTN3.0 miles SW HickmanEF13.6710000
C1-MarOHXTN1.9 Miles East Buffalo ValleyEF18.7515000
C1-MarILNOHNear WaverlyEF10.7512500
C1-MarOHXTN1.6 Miles East MontereyEF10.159000
C1-MarRLXOHNear LangsvilleEF10.630000
C1-MarFFCGA3W Chatsworth GeorgiaEF1315000
D6-MarMPXMNNW BricelynEF19.620000
D6-MarTOPKSNear I-70 & HWY 177EF00.05685000
D6-MarTOPKS3 S St. GeorgeEF018.85000
D6-MarTOPKS3 N LouisvilleEF00.05685000
D6-MarMPXMN2 SW Clarks GroveEF112.330000
D6-MarMPXMN5 W ZimmermanEF18.930000
D6-MarTOPKS4 N VollandEF00.5683000
D6-MarTOPKS1 W PaxicoEF01.45000
D6-MarTOPKS2 SE RossvilleEF065000
D6-MarEAXMO3 W Mound CityEF02.92500
D6-MarDMXIA1 S HarcourtEF02.33000
D6-MarDMXIA3 NW DaytonEF01.43000
D6-MarEAXMO1 NW SkidmoreEF05.62500
D6-MarICTKS2 SW LeonUNK0.11000
D6-MarEAXMO3 N SmithvilleEF219.64100000
D6-MarDMXIA5 W KnoxvilleEF10.910000
D6-MarDMXIA4 N KnoxvilleEF11.58000
D6-MarTOPKSPrincetonEF13.35000
D6-MarEAXMO3 SE CainsvilleEF110.410000
D6-MarEAXKSLeawoodEF00.310000
D6-MarEAXMOLee's SummitEF12.32500
D6-MarEAXMO4 SW Oak GroveEF311.9400012
D6-MarDMXIA5 SW SeymourEF212.620000
D6-MarDMXIACentervilleEF28.120000
D6-MarEAXMO1 SW CarrolltonEF16.110000
D6-MarARXWI1 N Barre MillsEF12.920000
D6-MarEAXMO2 NE BrunswickEF11810000
D6-MarEAXMO2 SE Knob NosterEF03.92500
D6-MarEAXMO5 SE ClintonEF07.82500
D6-MarEAXMO13.4 SW ShelbinaEF11615001
D6-MarEAXMO3 SW PilotEF01640000
D6-MarTSAOK3.7 SE BunchEF16.165000
D6-MarDVNIA1.3 S BernardEF05.72500
D6-MarSGFMO3 SSW QuincyEF10.7510000
D6-MarDVNIA1.8 SW MuscatineEF21.820003
D6-MarDVNIA3.3 W MontpelierEF225.3100000
D6-MarDVNIAWSW BennettEF116.710000
D6-MarDVNIANW WalcottEF234.720000
D6-MarSGFMO1 SW Macks CreekEF1244001
D6-MarSGFMO1 S Rocky MountEF00.35000
D6-MarDVNIA3.8 SSW Low MoorEF14.365000
D6-MarTSAAR5.9 WNW CombsEF12.640000
D6-MarLSXMO0.75 WNW ArgyleEF17.37500
D6-MarLSXMORhinelandEF12115000
D6-MarLZKAR2 N MossvilleEF236.770001
D6-MarLSXMOWentzvilleEF1310003
D6-MarILXIL2.2 NNW EastonEF16.915000
D7-MarILXIL5 SW Green ValleyEF17.515000
D7-MarILXIL1.4 NNE DelavanEF22.820000
D7-MarLSXMO3 SW DittmerEF02.68000
D7-MarLSXMOHillsboroEF01.27500
D7-MarLSXILSawyervilleEF11310001
D7-MarLSXILIrvingEF17.210000
D7-MarMEGAR.75 NNW Black RockEF00.3510000

Table notes: Outbreaks are given a letter based on when they occur. The first is A, the second is B and so on. Length is shown in miles and width is shown in yards.

Methodology

For an outbreak to be continuous over multiple days, there must be no breaks greater than 12 hours. In some eyes this may constitute separate outbreaks, but we do it in attempt to simplify the discussion and to attempt to capture a system crossing the United States in its entirety as one outbreak when possible. Although we are presenting confirmed tornadoes, data is preliminary and subject to change. This is particularly the case when the most recent event is less than a week or two in the past.

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U.S. Tornadoes

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15 thoughts on “The largest tornado outbreaks of 2017”

  1. Keith says:

    Off to a good start. Questions for Ian:
    Is there any historic correlation between early season activity and:

    1. start date of peak season on the Plains
    2. annual tornado count
    3. intensity of events during peak season on the Plains

    Yeah yeah.. my head is all around May but indulge me on this one

    1. Ian Livingston says:

      Interesting questions. I want to say there is probably not much correlation given that I’ve looked at other similar things and not found any. But I will dig a little in the next few weeks–might be a good post. I have not looked at this specifically.

      1. Keith says:

        Thanks. And if you do come up with something, then the underlying conditions are of greatest interest. (i.e. La Nina, El Nino, Jet stream). Looking forward to your thoughts

  2. Renee says:

    I wish they would have shown a time stamp on the chart for each sighting. This looks like it could be one tornado system, and if the sightings were over a 12 hour period, those triangles could be representing one tornado or maybe two that may have just touched down that many times as it weeble wabled across the area. A time stamp on would help to show if that is the case or not.

    1. Ian Livingston says:

      They are all individual tornadoes. This is compiled from public information statements like the following: http://mesonet.agron.iastate.edu/wx/afos/p.php?dir=next&pil=PNSLCH&e=201701032040

      These happened roughly from 10:30a through 10:30p. I think we’ll go ahead and add the information in a database here as we did when we tried to list all tornadoes last year (that project ended up too large, but we can steal some ideas from it at least). Will try to get that added soon.

  3. alex says:

    out of 27 tornados were any of them ef 3 0r higher in 2017

    1. Katie Wheatley says:

      Hi Alex — No EF3 tornado ratings yet!

  4. alex says:

    thx maam

    1. Katie Wheatley says:

      Alex, wanted to give up an update. One of the tornadoes from this past weekend was an EF3 (in Mississippi). Sadly, it took four lives and injured 56 others. We hope to have the final map posted later this week, waiting on remaining surveys.

      1. Alex says:

        I heard that’s a chaser’s dream any spotters or chasers here thanks for the updates miss katie

  5. REBECCA says:

    IS THERE ANY WAY TO TELL IF THEIR WILL BE ANYMORE TORNADO OUTBREAKS BEFORE SPRING OR SUMMER OF 2017?

  6. Dan from Georgia says:

    The NWS Peachtree City has posted a nearly-completed tornado track map from Jan 22. A few more tracks may be added.

    1. Ian Livingston says:

      Thanks Dan. We are pretty close to putting up a new update. Looks like 70+ tornadoes total so far.

      1. Dan from Georgia says:

        73 tornadoes now for the Jan 21-23 outbreak. Wow. Is there a top 10 winter outbreak table somewhere out there? I notice the Tornado project doesn’t have that specific stat, nor does a cursory look through Wikipedia.

  7. L.J. says:

    Have they indeed confirmed there were no tornadoes across central Florida on the 22nd? Those storms seemingly had some strong rotation

Comments are closed.