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 second day of the new year and one of the largest winter tornado events on record struck in late January.

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: February 10, 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.

The top events based on confirmed tornadoes

#1: January 21-23, 81 tornadoes (B)
#2: January 2, 35 tornadoes (A)

Outbreak tornadoes

OUTBREAKDATEOFFICESTATELOCRATINGLENGTHWIDTHFATALINJ
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
A1/2LIXLABushEF00.0170455500
A1/2LCHLA4 NE FieldsEF10.32000
A1/2LCHLA4 SSW RagleyEF12.810000
A1/2LCHLA3 WSW MamouEF00.52500
A1/2LCHLA2 SSE MeekerEF11.410000
A1/2LCHLABunkieEF11.620000
A1/2LCHLAHessmerEF12.420000
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
B1/21FFCGAMilledgevilleEF10.537000
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
B1/21CAEGAMidvilleEF01.325000
B1/21CAEGARosierEF01.510000
B1/21CAEGAWaynesboroEF117500
B1/21CHSGAWNW LewisEF00.75000
B1/21CHSGAFive PointsEF00.7125000
B1/21CHSGAE SylvaniaEF12.4452500
B1/21CAESC4.5 N BarnwellEF213.6160001
B1/21CAESCCopeEF15.540000
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
B1/21SHVLAJenaEF10.1510000
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
B1/22BMXALOneontaEF11.4100000
B1/22CHSGAWillieEF10.14265000
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
B1/23MFLFLLoxahatcheeEF11813000
B1/23MFLFLMiami SpringsEF12.312300

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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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.