The largest tornado outbreaks of 2017

by Katie Wheatley and Ian Livingston

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┬ásecond day of the new year.

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: January 13, 2017.

Large tornado outbreaks of 2017

Events with at least 20 confirmed tornadoes

(Outbreak A) January 2, 2017 | 35 confirmed tornadoes, 31 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.

The top events based on confirmed tornadoes

#1: January 2, 35 tornadoes

Outbreak tornadoes

A2-JanBMXAL2 WNW Beans CrossroadsEF13.448500
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-JanLCHLA4 NE FieldsEF10.32000
A2-JanLCHLA4 SSW RagleyEF12.810000
A2-JanLCHLA3 WSW MamouEF00.52500
A2-JanLCHLA2 SSE MeekerEF11.410000
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-JanLIXLAE KentwoodEF10.57500
A2-JanLIXMSE MagnoliaEF1410000
A2-JanLIXMSW TylertownEF1110000
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


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

8 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:

      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

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