The Nation's Top Tornado States in 2018 Might Surprise You

Jonathan Erdman
Published: November 5, 2018

Total reports of tornadoes by state in 2018, through Nov. 2. These are preliminary reports of tornadoes. Actual tornado counts, by state, will be finalized by NOAA/NWS/SPC in early 2019.
(NOAA/SPC)

A pair of states that might not pop in your mind first when you think of tornadoes top the nation in tornado reports so far in 2018, according to the latest government statistics.

Iowa and Louisiana lead the nation so far in 2018, tallying 84 and 69 preliminary tornado reports, respectively, through Nov. 2, according to data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

Final counts of confirmed tornadoes are typically solidified by NOAA/SPC sometime after a given month ends.

A tornado swept through Marshalltown, Iowa, on Thursday, July 19, 2018, damaging buildings and knocking out power.
(Benjamin Fuller )

These two tornado state leaders are typically eighth (Iowa – 51 tornadoes) and 14th (Louisiana – 37 tornadoes) among U.S. states in any year, according to NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

Among other events, pacing Iowa ahead of the pack was an outbreak of 21 tornadoes on July 19, including a pair of EF3 tornadoes in Marshalltown and Pella.

Most recently, at least 18 tornadoes were confirmed in Louisiana from a Halloween event, including a 38-mile-long EF2 tornado through Alexandria and Pineville.

Rounding out the top five states for 2018 tornado reports are Mississippi (54), Texas (48) and Kansas (45).

(MORE: Connecticut Sets New Yearly Tornado Record)

The raw number of tornado reports doesn't tell the whole story, however.

Leaders and Laggards

Acknowledging that mixing reports of tornadoes and actual tornadoes is a bit of apples-to-oranges, we decided to compare the year-to-date reports with average annual tornado counts to get a sense of which states have overshot their typical yearly allotment and which have been relatively quiet.

Of the states that averaged at least 10 tornadoes per year, the biggest overachiever has been Wyoming, with 31 its tornado reports just over 2.5 times the average of 12 tornadoes a year.

Rounding out the top five tornadic states, relative to average, were Pennsylvania (194 percent of average), Louisiana (186 percent), Virginia (183 percent) and Kentucky (176 percent).

Pennsylvania was paced by its record October outbreak on Oct. 2, the state's most active day for tornadoes in over 20 years.

Preliminary tornado reports in 2018 through Nov. 2 expressed as a percent of average annual actual tornadoes (1991-2010). Only states with at least 10 tornado reports and averaging at least 10 yearly tornadoes are shown.
(Data: NOAA/SPC, NCEI)

Even more interesting are the states that have seen fewer tornadoes than average, including what has been historically described as Tornado Alley.

Despite having the fourth- and fifth-most tornado reports of any state so far in 2018, both Kansas (47 percent of average) and Texas (31 percent of average) were well below their average annual total as of early November.

Texas was the biggest laggard of any state, with over 100 fewer tornado reports than the 1991-2010 average number of tornadoes (155).

Oklahoma's 22 tornado reports ranked it only 21st-most of any state, behind Wisconsin (35), North Dakota (31) and, as mentioned above, Wyoming.

The Sooner State didn't see its first tornado until May 2, breaking a record year-to-date tornado drought dating back to 1950.

(MORE: Tornado Alley Could Be Shifting East and Scientists Don't Know Why)

This doesn't mean the Plains had a lack of severe weather, though.

Kansas (1,169) and Texas (1,071) lead the nation in the number of reports of all severe weather, including large hail, high thunderstorm winds or wind damage, and tornado reports.

But four of the five largest tornado outbreaks from late February through early May happened outside of the Plains Tornado Alley states, according to a compilation from USTornadoes.com.

Other states lagging behind the average pace were Tennessee (just over a third of average), Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina and Florida.

On the whole, the U.S. has seen far fewer tornadoes than average in 2018.

As of Nov. 4, a preliminary 1,055 tornado reports had been reported to the NWS this year, more than 300 tornado reports below the year-to-date average of 1,402, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.


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