Violent Tornadoes: 1962-2011

Over a 50-year span from 1962 to 2011, the most violent (F/EF-4 and F/EF-5) tornadoes occurred over Oklahoma and Mississippi. The maximum grid-points reported 16 over that period, with two of those grid-points in central Oklahoma and one in central Mississippi.

While a broad area from the Plains to the mid-South sees the most tornadoes overall across the United States, there are three sub-areas with the most violent tornadoes. Much of Oklahoma falls into that category, as it is widely considered to be in the heart of tornado alley. Further north into Iowa is another area that has seen the most violent tornadoes during the period. The third area falls across Mississippi, where the tornado season is relatively elongated from the heart of winter into mid-Spring. The tornado season in Oklahoma generally occurs in a narrower window in mid-Spring. The season in Iowa tends to fall from mid to late spring with a secondary peak in the fall. A smaller and less significant maximum for violent tornadoes can also be identified across the upper Ohio Valley. While the tornado season tends to peak there in mid-Spring, a few events have also occurred in the fall.

An interesting tornado minimum occurs in a small portion of central Missouri. Among multiple factors is the unique geographical area Missouri falls into. The classic tornado setup in the Plains is driven largely by lee-side cyclogenesis and the dryline. As storm systems move across the Plains, the bulk of the violent tornadoes tend to occur west and northwest of Missouri. Also, the dryline tends to have trouble advancing far enough east to make it far into Missouri. Likewise, typical tornado events in the mid-South tend to thrive off of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, producing tornadoes east of Missouri. With that said, higher instances of violent tornadoes have been noted across northwestern Missouri (tornado alley) and far southeastern portions of the state (Dixie alley).

East of the Appalachians, violent tornadoes are less common. However, two particular regions have reported three or more violent tornadoes from 1962 to 2011. Portions of the Carolinas have reported three violent tornadoes over that period. Further north, grid-points in the mid-Hudson Valley into southwestern New England have reported four violent tornadoes in that same span.

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Quincy is a meteorologist and storm chaser who travels around the country documenting and researching severe weather. He has on-air experience with stations such as WTNH-TV in New Haven, CT and WREX-TV in Rockford, IL. He was most recently a digital meteorologist for After achieving his B.S. degree in Meteorology at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in 2009, he returned as a University Assistant to help produce weather broadcasts. He also gave guest lectures and worked on website design. He has over nine years of professional weather forecasting experience and his forecasts have been featured in newspapers and on radio stations in multiple states.

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