The 2023 tornado season has been busy, with at least 1,310 preliminary reports of tornadoes and 1,165 tornadoes already confirmed in 2023 within the U.S. as of Oct. 23. There were 128 in January, 56 in February, 195 confirmed in March, 160 in April, 126 in May, 210 in June, 83 in July, 106 in August, 10 in September and 20 in October. This total does not include all the tornadoes, as some still are in the investigative stages.
According to research from the National Centers for Environmental Information, from 1991–2020, there was an average of 39.4 tornadoes in January (with an average of 2.2 fatalities), 36.1 in February (with an average of 9.4 fatalities), 80.1 in March (with 8.1 fatalities on average), 182.4 tornadoes in April (with an average of 22.5 fatalities), 264.8 in May (with an average of 16 fatalities),212.6 in June (with an average of 1.8 fatalities), 118.8 in July (with an average of 0.6 fatalities),81 in August (with an average of .9 fatalities), and 118.8 tornadoes in September (with an average of .6 fatalities).
The first three months of 2023 exceeded the average, but April and May were below average. January 2023’s total is the second-highest on record. February’s tornado total is one of the highest in recent years and the 10th most active on record. Combined, January and February were the fourth-most active months on record. March was the fifth-highest on record, and the fifth consecutive year with a violent tornado, tying the record from 1963 to 1967. June exceeded the average of deaths for the month after the storms on June 15.
There have been at least 223 EFU tornadoes, 377 EF-0, 411 EF-1, 118EF-2, 28 EF-3 and two EF-4 tornadoes as of September 26. More than half of the mainland states have experienced tornadoes, from California to Delaware and from Wisconsin to Texas. As of the end of the March, the estimated cost of the damage had reached $529.75 million.
When looking at fatalities, 2023 is stacking up to be one of the highest on record for the U.S. In 2011, 553 people died in tornadoes, many in Joplin, Missouri. With 76 deaths this year is already within the top 10 for deaths. This is already three times higher than 2022.
According to The Washington Post, “approximately 67,000 tornadoes have touched down in the United States since 1950, with an average path of under four miles. Less than 1 percent of tornadoes in the United States travel more than 50 miles, according to a Post analysis of NWS data recorded between 1950 and 2021. Just 1 in 1,100 tornadoes cover more than 100 miles.” The 2023 tornadoes have regularly exceeded the average length.
This profile will be maintained throughout 2023, focusing on the most impactful tornadoes for marginalized and at-risk populations. Tornadoes will be listed in the Impact section in reverse date, chronological order.
(Photo: Tornado damage in Alabama, Jan. 13. 2023. (Source: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey via Twitter)
The NWS defines tornadoes as “a violently rotating column of air touching the ground, usually attached to the base of a thunderstorm.” Any thunderstorm can develop a tornado, but the most severe twisters are created inside supercell thunderstorms, defined by a rotating updraft. Tornadoes are measured using the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which rates them from EF-0 to EF-5. Scales are determined by the NWS after a tornado based on the amount of damage viewed on the ground. This helps investigators estimate the highest approximate wind speed that was sustained for at least a three-second gust.
During a typical El Niño season, the risk to the traditional tornado alley – through the central Plains and lower Midwestern states – switches to Florida, Texas and the West Coast.
Since 1880, the percentage of fatalities during daytime tornadoes has decreased by 20%, while the percentage of fatalities during nighttime tornadoes has increased by the same amount. Between 1880-1890, approximately 30% of tornado fatalities occurred at night. By 2010-2020 (the last period included in the study), the split was much closer to 50/50. Nighttime tornadoes kill twice as many people as daytime tornadoes annually.
Announcing $2.12 million to support recovery from hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and more
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, October 16
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, June 26
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, June 20
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, May 15
Oct. 12: Florida
Three EF-2 tornadoes hit Florida. No injuries or fatalities were reported, although many homes reported damage.
Aug. 4-8: Multiple states
Baring, Missouri, a town of 124 people, was hit by an EF-2 tornado on Aug. 4, the first of several days of storm systems that hit multiple states. Two people were injured and there was extensive damage to homes.
In an email communication, Missouri VOAD reported, “The community of 125 has between 30-40 destroyed residences, another 10 with significant damage, and more than 30 with minor impacts. In addition, 16 apartments the storm damaged housed seniors. Neither significant injuries nor deaths have been reported, but 14 people were rescued from damaged homes. The tornado arrived in the area without warning.”
There were six tornadoes in Indiana on Aug. 7, including a record breaker. Although just an EF-1, the tornado set a record for the longest track (25.89 miles) for an August tornado in the NWS Louisville forecast area. The tornado brought winds of 107 miles an hour. A second tornado that night also broke the previous record of four miles set in 2002 in Jefferson County. This EF-1, near Paoli, traveled almost 9 miles. Five of the tornadoes were EF-1, and one was an EF-0.
An EF-2 hit on Aug. 7 near Knoxville, Tennessee. The same storm system led to hundreds of reports of wind damage and an EF-3 tornado in Lewis County, New York. That tornado damaged the Snow Ridge Ski Resort. Finally, on Aug. 8, another EF-3 tornado damaged buildings near Yuma, Colorado.
July 29: Nebraska
An EF-1 tornado ripped through Sutton, Nebraska, 70 miles southwest of Lincoln, on July 29. There were no injuries, but the town was severely damaged by the storm.
According to the National Weather Service, the tornado carved a path through the center of the town that was more than two football fields wide. There was also some damage to homes in Sutton. Gage County and the city of Crete also suffered damage from the storm.
June 21-26: Great Plains, Mississippi Valley and Southeastern United States
After a brief break from the previous round of severe storm systems, many of the same regions were hit again. Nearly 70 tornadoes occurred and were exacerbated by the extreme heat, which also caused recovery issues as power was knocked out across the region.
One of the biggest tornadoes was a high-end EF-3 twister that hit western Matador, Texas, on June 21. It led to four deaths, 15 injuries and the destruction of numerous homes and businesses. Matador is a town of less than 600 people. Damage reports show 29 structures destroyed and 34 damaged.
Other tornadoes were reported in Colorado and North Carolina (June 22); Wyoming, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado (June 23); Minnesota and Iowa (June 24); and Indiana and Kentucky (June 25).
The strongest of these were an EF-2 in Nebraska on June 23, an EF-3 near Granada, Colorado on June 23, an EF-2 on June 24 in Mahnomen, Minnesota and another EF-2 on June 25 that killed one person in Rusk, Indiana. Another Indiana tornado near Bargersville resulted in moderate or severe damage to at least 75 homes.
In addition to the EF-1 tornado in a Denver suburb on June 22, a massive hailstorm in Denver injured 100 people at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
June 14-19: Southern U.S., Midwest and Great Plains
Numerous tornadoes struck across several states, from Texas to Ohio, in the middle of June, covering a period of several days. In addition to 56 verified tornadoes, strong winds and large hail were also reported.
Five people were killed – one each in Florida and Mississippi and three in Perryton, Texas, including an 11-year-old boy. Over 100 people in Perryton were injured as well. The town of 8,000 is located on the Texas-Oklahoma border.
The Texas Department of Emergency Management indicated that 125 homes were destroyed, 94 suffered major damage and 50 received minor damage from the EF-3 tornado on June 15. Nearly 250 commercial buildings were also damaged or destroyed.
In Florida, storms in Pensacola, in Escambia County, led to flash flooding and high-water rescues. Warrington (just south of Pensacola) got nearly a foot of rain in three hours. An apartment building in Pensacola experienced flooding so severe that almost 150 people were evacuated on June 16 to a community center.
Several tornadoes were also reported in Toledo’s Pointe Place neighborhood in Ohio. There were also tornadoes in Oak Harbor, near Fremont and near Norwalk.
On June 18, an EF-3 tornado hit Mississippi, near Louin, about 55 miles southeast of Jackson. One person was killed and 25 injured. The tornado was on the ground for 7.6 miles. As many as 30 homes have been reported as destroyed or significantly damaged. It was one of 11 tornadoes to hit Mississippi that evening.
June 2-5: Texas
The six tornadoes in Texas on June 2 and June 3 were all relatively minor (EFU to EF1) and caused damage mostly to trees, cars and businesses. An EFU in Terrell County on June 2 was on the ground for nearly an hour and traveled 21.2 miles before crossing the border into Mexico, where it may have continued.
May 10–13: Great Plains
With more than 78 tornadoes confirmed, this outbreak was not as bad as it could have been but still saw five EF-2 twisters touchdown, and the death of one person (the first in the area since the 1950s) in Laguna Hills, Texas, in an EF-1 tornado. Twelve others were injured.
Although it was a weaker tornado, the Laguna Heights twister is a good example of how damaging a storm can be when it hits manufactured housing or low-income communities. There were at least 21 homes destroyed and an additional 31 homes with major destruction. Laguna Hills is an unincorporated community comprised of hotel and restaurant workers and older adults who have lived there for most of their lives. Almost half the residents are renters and now face a rental housing shortage. The tornado struck at night, which may have increased the number of injuries.
Nebraska saw 25 tornadoes across the state on May 12, including 18 tornadoes in Eastern Nebraska, of which three were EF-2. The strongest tornado was an EF-2 near Uehling. Winds hit 125 mph and the twister was a mile wide and was on the ground for 10.5 miles. There was significant agricultural damage (mostly on hog farms) and damage to roofs, garages and porches.
April 27-30: Southern and Eastern U.S.
Slow-moving weather produced a dozen small tornadoes across several states in the southern and eastern U.S. between April 27 and 30. There were two EF-2 storms and one EF-3, all of which did significant residential damage.
The EF-3 tornado took place in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and ripped the roofs off many well-built homes. Up to 100 homes were damaged.
Palm Beach Gardens in Florida was hit by an EF-2 tornado that “collapsed roofs, [broke] windows, and removed roofing material … It completely destroyed a manufactured home along the canals bank.”
April 22: Eastern U.S.
Several small tornadoes caused minor home and structural damage across several states. Two children, a 12-year-old and a two-year-old, were killed in separate incidents in Pennsylvania due to falling tree branches during straight-line winds.
New York state saw its first tornado and the largest storm, an EF-2, but the damage was mostly limited to outbuildings and trees.
April 19: Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma
At least 29 tornadoes touched across Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma on April 19. These included two EF-3 twisters and six EF-2s.
Three people were killed in or near the town of Cole in McClain County, Oklahoma, a town of just over 600 people, during an EF-3 tornado that was on the ground for 35 minutes, traveling 11 miles at a width of two-thirds of a mile. There were also two additional small tornadoes around Cole during that timeframe as well.
There was also a strong EF-2 tornado in Shawnee, in nearby Pottawatomie County. Several buildings were severely damaged at the Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. It was on the ground for 27 minutes at more than a mile in width and traveled 15.5 miles. There were at least four other tornadoes in Pottawatomie County, including a short (3.3 miles) EF-3.
April 12: Florida
Three EF-0 tornadoes were reported in Florida on April 12. The low wind speeds caused only minor damage, except for the tornado in Dania Beach, Broward County, which affected a mobile home park. The storms were part of the same storm system that brought high levels of rain to Ft. Lauderdale causing massive flooding.
April 4-5: Illinois, Iowa and Missouri
A tornado in Bollinger County – across the Mississippi River from Illinois – killed five people when it touched down at 3:30 a.m. on April 5. The twister was on the ground for 15 minutes and traveled 15-20 miles. An EF-2 storm, it was one of nearly a dozen to hit the multi-state area. Missouri Governor Mike Parson said in a press conference that 12 structures were destroyed and more than 70 were damaged, but no breakdown was given for type of structure.
Two others EF-2 twisters occurred on April 4 in Henry County, Illinois. They were the strongest systems of a supercell that produced five tornadoes, but caused minimal damage.
Two tornadoes hit Fulton County, Illinois. One, an EF-1, caused minor damage, but an EF-3 was on the ground for 24 minutes and traveled 18.7 miles near Canton. Four people were injured.
March 31-April 1: Multiple states
More than 145 tornadoes across at least 15 states received preliminary ratings between March 31 and April 1, including one EF-4, 11 EF-3s, 32 EF-2s, 47 EF-1s, 45 EF-0s and nine EFUs.
There have been 33 deaths to date, with dozens of people critically injured. In Tennessee, 15 people were killed, including nine people in McNairy County and three in Shelby County. Four people died in Wynne, Arkansas and one in North Little Rock. In Illinois, one person was killed after a roof collapsed at a concert in Belvidere and three died in Crawford County. Three people died in Sullivan County, Indiana and one each in Madison County, Alabama and Pontotoc County in northern Mississippi.
The impact of these tornado outbreaks was significant, as evidenced by media reports and videos from the ground.
In Iowa, an EF-4 tornado (only the second this year) was on the ground for nearly an hour. It was the strongest tornado in the state since 2008. It began in southern Keokuk County and ended far into southwest Johnson County, destroying many homes and trees along the way. It was one of at least 23 tornadoes that hit the state on Friday, March 31.
In Arkansas, an EF-3 hit the Little Rock Metro area (including Little Rock and North Little Rock) in Arkansas, killing one person, injuring dozens (some critically) and damaging over 2,100 homes (and 2,600 structures). The tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes, traveling almost 35 miles with peak winds of 165 mph. In Wynne, Arkansas, four people died in another EF-3 tornado and the police chief reported that the town had experienced “total destruction.” Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.
Indiana saw more than 23 tornadoes on March 31, making it the fifth-largest outbreak in Indiana’s history and the biggest outbreak in Central Indiana in 10 years. With several fatalities, it was “the first day with multiple fatalities [in Central Indiana] from different tornadoes since June 2, 1990. For the entire state, this is the first day with multiple fatalities from different tornadoes since March 2, 2012.”
The tornadoes in Indiana included at least six EF-2 and four EF-3s. The Gas City EF-3 tornado was on the ground for only five minutes but traveled 3.4 miles, causing significant damage. An EF-3 tornado traveled from Ste. Marie in Jasper County, Illinois and ended in Sullivan County, Indiana. The path was over 40 miles long and nearly 700 yards wide. Dozens of homes were damaged.
Just after 3 a.m. CT, on April 1, an EF-3 tornado, hit northern Madison County, Alabama and southeastern Lincoln County, Tennessee. The peak winds are estimated at 160 mph, and the twister was on the ground and traveled 12.1 miles in 16 minutes. Uprooted trees fell on homes, destroyed farm buildings, damaged multiple stores and numerous homes received heavy damage along the Tennessee-Alabama border. More than 250 homes were damaged in Tennessee.
An EF-3 tornado in Delaware led to the death of one person on April 1, the second day of storms. Several homes were damaged or destroyed in the Greenwood area. It was the widest tornado ever for the state, and one of the two strongest; the other occurred in 1961. The tornado was on the ground for 14 miles, with winds of 140 mph.
In addition to the tornadoes, Wisconsin and Minnesota were hit by blizzards and wildfires were reported in Kansas and Oklahoma.
March 24-27: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas
At least 25 million people across the U.S. Deep South faced threats of severe storms March 24-27. At least 30 tornadoes have been confirmed, including four EF-0 tornadoes, 18 EF-1s, five EF-2s, three EF-3s and a massive EF-4, an extremely strong tornado. Thousands of homes were destroyed, and damage assessments are still ongoing. To date: 1,894 homes have been assessed as impacted with the majority in Monroe (1,476 homes) and Sharkey (255 homes) counties in Mississippi.
The storm systems killed at least 24 people – two in Missouri, 21 in Mississippi (a decrease from initial reports) and one in Alabama. In Mississippi, “the total fatality number has been revised to 21 storm-related fatalities. There were 3 fatalities in Carroll County, 2 fatalities in Monroe County, 3 fatalities in Humphreys County, and 13 fatalities in Sharkey County.”
The second-deadliest tornado outbreak so far in 2023 occurred late in the evening on March 24 in Mississippi. NWS gave one of the tornadoes a rating of an EF-4, with several videos and photos confirming the extent of the damage. According to the NWS, the path of the EF-4 tornado began in northern Issaquena Co and ended in northern Holmes County.. On the ground for more than an hour, the tornado reached three-quarters of a mile in width, had a length of 59.4 miles and peak winds of 170 mph.
The towns of Rolling Fork in Sharkey County and Silver City in Humphreys County, Mississippi, were decimated. All the businesses on Highway 61 – the main business district in Rolling Fork – were destroyed, trapping several people inside. The tornado also obliterated residential areas. Both towns are quite small – roughly 1,800 and 200 people, respectively – so there will be a significant lack of resources available locally for assistance. They are majority African American communities with high levels of pre-existing poverty. The housing stock had a large amount of tenant housing, RVs, mobile and manufactured homes.
Rolling Fork, the county seat of Sharkey County, is a good example of how a tornado in a small community can have an outsized impact. The county has a geographic footprint of 4352 miles. The tornado damaged or destroyed the following structures: Sharkey Issaquena Hospital, a fire station, Rolling Fork Elementary School, South Delta High School, a church, a library, the Rolling Fork U.S. Post Office, the Rolling Fork City Hall, the Rolling Fork Police Department, Sharkey County Courthouse, a water tower, several business including an agricultural business, Ace Hardware store, a Family Dollar and 30 mobile homes at the Chuck’s Dairy Bar property.
Eldridge Walker, Mayor of Rolling Fork (and the local funeral director), told CNN, “My city…my city is gone. But we’re resilient, and we’re going to come back. We’re going to come back strong.”
While there are some structures left standing in Rolling Fork, even those were damaged. The mayor pledged that the community will be rebuilt. Thirteen of the deaths in Mississippi (nearly two-thirds of the state’s total) were in Sharkey County.
The Black Hawk-Winona tornado, an EF-3 twister, was on the ground for about 28.6 miles at a width of half a mile, with winds of 155 mph. On the ground for 25 minutes, it traveled from Black Hawk to Winona, affecting Holmes, Carroll, Montgomery and Webster counties. In addition to damage to homes and businesses, the Black Hawk Independent Church and Historic Blackhawk School (both which were almost 100 years old) and the parsonage were completely destroyed. Three people were killed in this tornado.
The Egypt–New Wren–Amory–Smithville tornado was an EF-3 tornado that lasted 31 minutes (from 10:38 p.m. to 11:09 p.m. CT), with winds as high as 155 miles. This was an extremely fast twister that stemmed from the same storm that led to the Rolling Fork and Black Hawk/Winona tornadoes. The tornado touched down southwest of Egypt in Chickasaw County gaining strength and damaging homes in its path, many of them manufactured homes, as well as the local high school. Two people were killed when their manufactured home was destroyed. While the intensity varied, it hit Amory as an EF-3 causing significant damage to homes and businesses. It finally died down after it entered Itawamba County, Alabama, 37 miles away from Egypt. A town of 6,000 people, Amory was under a boil water advisory for several days after the tornado, due to damage to the city’s water department which took a direct hit from the twister.
Over the four days, there were 13 tornadoes that hit Alabama. An EF-2 tornado in Morgan and Lawrence counties was on the ground for 13.5 miles, damaged several homes and killed a man after he was trapped under his trailer. The Huntsville Hospital also experienced damage. An EF-2 in Macon County caused damage at Auburn University’s campus and severely damaged a cotton gin in Milstead, but only caused minor home damage.
Early in the morning on March 24, severe thunderstorms led to two tornadoes in Parker County, Texas. NWS assessed both as EF-1 twisters with winds up to 100 mph. One of the tornadoes occurred near Whitt and was on the ground for six miles. A couple of RV trailers were rolled over, and there was minor damage to outbuildings and trees. The second twister occurred near Poolville and caused more significant damage to homes and buildings. There were five injuries across the two events.
This system also led to the deaths of two young people in a vehicle that tried to cross a flooded bridge.
Georgia had five tornadoes as part of this outbreak, including an EF-0 in Laurens County on March 25, an EF-3 in Troup and Meriweather counties on March 26, an EF-1 in Baldwin County on March 26, an EF-1 in Meriweather County, and an EF-0 in Twiggs County on March 27. The two EF-0 twisters caused minimal damage, but the other three produced substantial damage. The EF-3 storm cause five injuries, had wind speeds of 150 mph with a width of 500 yards and a length of 21.7 miles, and was on the ground for 30 minutes.
“According to Troup County EMA, 146 total homes were affected, 23 were destroyed, 26 sustained major damage and 41 sustained minor damage. Additionally, several businesses were affected.”
March 22: California
March 3: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and South Carolina
A series of thunderstorms developed and moved across several states on March 3, producing seven EF-0, 13 EF-1 and one EF-2 tornadoes. The largest of the twisters hit McCracken County, Kentucky and damaged several homes, destroyed outbuildings, impacted businesses and significantly damaged a church. A second church was damaged by an EF-1 tornado in Vanderburgh County, Indiana and a third had its roof ripped off in Ohio. Two EF-1 tornadoes damaged and destroyed several manufactured and mobile homes in Jackson County, Alabama.
March 2: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas
Severe weather traveled across several states in the south producing two EF-0, seven EF-1 and one EF-2 tornado. While most of the damage was to trees and outbuildings, several homes were damaged or destroyed and five people were injured. The EF-2 twister in Pike, Arkansas, threw a mobile home 100 meters, despite it being tied down. At least 20-30 other homes were damaged or destroyed, along with commercial chicken operations. In Caddo Parish, Louisiana, an EF-1 tornado damaged almost 100 homes, four businesses and an apartment building in Shreveport. There was also tree and building damage on Louisiana State University Shreveport’s campus.
Feb. 26-27: Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas
An extensive storm complex covered several states on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27. While the tornado outbreak affected Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, heavy snowfall was recorded in many states in the northeast as part of the same system. The hardest-hit area was Oklahoma, which saw its record of six tornadoes in February shattered on Feb. 26, with 11 twisters. One person was killed, and several dozen were injured across the state. Norman, Oklahoma, home to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, saw significant damage. At least three of the tornadoes have been confirmed as EF-2s, including one with a 27-mile path in Goldsby-Norman and one in Ayedelott. Wind gusts in Memphis, Texas, reached 114 mph. Illinois also had tornadoes the following day, including in Chicago.
Feb. 23: New Jersey
A winter storm in New Jersey produced a rare EF-2 twister that stayed on the ground for six minutes and traveled nearly six miles. The majority of the damage was to trees, but an apartment complex in Lawrenceville was affected, leaving 27 units uninhabitable. The tornado affected Mercer County and Lawrence and West Windsor Townships.
Feb. 16-17: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia
A severe thunderstorm system produced 13 tornadoes, although all were relatively minor (four EF-0 twisters, seven EF-1s and two EF-2s). Each of the twisters left minor damage, including homes, outbuildings and trees. Flooding associated with the storms also led to mudslides. Two people died: one in Kentucky and one in West Virginia.
Feb. 8: Louisiana and Mississippi
At least one tornado touched down in Louisiana and one in Mississippi on the evening of Feb. 8, as part of a wide storm system. The National Weather Service (NWS) gave the Louisiana twister a preliminary rating of EF-2 and the Mississippi tornado a preliminary EF-0 rating. The Village of Tangipahoa and the town of Kentwood, both in Tangipahoa Parish, and the town of Walker, in Livingston Parish, reported damages. At least three people were injured, and over 25 homes were affected, including mobile homes that were destroyed.
Jan. 24-25: Texas, Louisiana and Florida
A storm system moved through southeast Texas and southern Louisiana during the afternoon and evening of Jan. 24 before continuing through Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle on Jan. 25. NWS reported a lower-end EF-3 twister in Pasadena and Deer Park, in Harris County (Houston suburb). This was the first time that the NWS Houston Office declared a tornado emergency.
Rainfall records were also set across Texas, with the City of Houston receiving 4.05 inches, which doubles 2011’s record of 1.94 inches. An EF-2 tornado moved from Orange, Texas into Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, where it decreased in strength to an EF-1. Several homes, mobile housing and RVs were partially or fully destroyed. A second EF-2 tornado in Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes also damaged several homes.
Jan. 22: Florida and Georgia
Five tornadoes – two EF-2 and three EF-1 storms – moved through Florida and Georgia on the afternoon and evening of Jan. 22. The most severe of these storms was South Walton County, northeast of Miramar Beach. The tornado touched down in the Driftwood Estates subdivision and skipped over several streets (lifting up and touching down again). There was damage to several roofs, most consistent with an EF-1 storm, but some significant EF-2 damage on three homes, with major sections of roofs destroyed.
Jan. 12: Alabama and Georgia
On Jan. 12, extreme weather and tornadoes left behind a path of destruction in Alabama and Georgia, with minor impacts in several other states. At least 38 tornadoes have been confirmed, including seven EF-0s, 19 EF-1s, 10 EF-2s and 2 EF-3 twisters. Fourteen tornadoes touched down in Alabama, including an EF-3 named the Old Kingston-Lake Martin Tornado that affected multiple counties and killed seven people in Autauga County. Four of those killed were members of the same family, living a couple of blocks apart in Prattville. The tornado brought estimated peak winds of 150 miles per hour, and its path length was 76 miles, making it Alabama’s ninth-longest tornado track on record. In the city of Selma, which was hit by an EF-2 tornado, residents offered support to one another, continuing a long tradition of the city coming together after tragedy.
Tornadoes and straight-line winds caused damage and power outages across north Georgia and metro Atlanta. On Jan. 16, the NWS confirmed eight tornadoes in Georgia, including an EF-3 that traveled across Pike, Spalding and Henry counties. Manufactured homes were damaged in Henry County, Georgia, and the community was helping one other with the cleanup. A young boy was killed in Georgia when a tree hit the car he was in, as was a Transportation Department employee responding to the tornado damage.
The American Red Cross reported that nearly 1,000 homes received major damage or were destroyed across Alabama and Georgia.
In Alabama, the tornadoes resulted in the deaths of at least nine people, with two others killed in Georgia. President Biden has approved disaster declarations for affected counties in Alabama and Georgia.
The same system produced storms in the Carolinas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Jan. 2-4: Multiple states
A severe weather outbreak across the central and southern U.S. at the beginning of the year resulted in 57 tornadoes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The majority were EFU, EF-0 and EF-1, with four EF-2 twisters.
A wide EF-2 tornado near Jonesboro, Louisiana injured three people and damaged several homes. Another Louisiana EF-2 damaged electrical towers but had minimal residential or business impacts. A third tornado in Montrose, Arkansas damaged a mobile home, as well as other houses and vehicles, along with trees and power polls. The fourth EF-2 was near Deatsville, Alabama and caused mostly roof damage, as well as destroying boathouses at Jordan Lake Reservoir.
July 19: North Carolina
A large tornado touched down in North Carolina near Dortches, shutting down I-95 for hours. The EF-3 twister destroyed many mobile homes and a transmission tower and damaged a Pfizer warehouse. Initially, there were fears of drug shortages, but the FDA and Pfizer do not believe that will occur based on where the damage was.
Sixteen people were injured, but no one died. At least 90 homes and other buildings were damaged. Top wind speeds were 150 mph, and the tornado was on the ground for 16.5 miles and was 600 yards across.
While there are many immediate needs in the wake of the tornadoes, it is also important that funders start planning for the intermediate and long-term needs of the affected communities.
Immediate needs include cleaning, repairing, tarping and rebuilding of damaged homes and businesses. This includes debris clean-up, which is significant because of the amount of damage and felling of trees. There will be a need to replace vehicles, personal belongings, appliances and furniture lost in the tornadoes.
As tornado alley shifts and storms move closer toward the Southeast, more urban areas will be affected. At the same time, many tornadoes also impact rural communities, which will not get the same attention as the bigger cities. For example, the City of Selma was hard hit by the tornadoes in mid-January and has received the most media attention, but smaller communities in the Black Belt were also affected. The March 24 Mississippi tornadoes hit extremely small towns without the resources to support those affected.
Recovery in rural communities is slower and requires “patient dollars.” That means funders need to understand that progress will not occur as quickly as it does in bigger communities. Investments should be made over time: pledges of multi-year funding are very helpful in this regard, as is support for operating costs and capacity building.
People whose homes were damaged will need support securing new housing that is safe and affordable or repairing their damaged homes. After a tornado, displaced residents may face challenges finding housing that meets their needs. The tornadoes affected people from all walks of life, some with insurance and others without. The destruction of manufactured homes (often called mobile homes) and trailers will also affect affordable housing availability in communities.
Depending upon the location of the housing, the homeowner may not own the land, only the building. Additionally, insurance is limited on manufactured housing, especially based on the age of the building.
Although manufactured housing can be physically vulnerable to tornadoes, they also represent an affordable and accessible housing option. Balancing safety with the benefits of manufactured homes can be a challenge. On Oct. 12, 2022, CDP hosted a webinar about the increased risks manufactured homes face and the role they play in disaster recovery. In many parts of the country, demand for housing outpaces supply, complicating recovery efforts. Affected people living in rural areas or public housing and people from marginalized groups will need assistance identifying and securing housing. The ability to rebuild in rural communities is also challenging due to the reduced economies of scale and the costs of transporting goods.
A critical ongoing need will be unrestricted cash donations to support affected individuals and families. Direct cash assistance can allow families to secure housing, purchase items and contract services locally that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant, cost-effective and timely. Cash assistance can also help move families faster toward rebuilding their lives.
Several schools were damaged by the tornadoes, meaning students may have extended virtual learning or may need to transfer to another school facility. After a tornado, schools are usually closed for a few weeks to help with recovery. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when students need the social support of their friends and teachers, especially as their families may be busy with their own recovery activities.
There are immediate health needs after tornadoes related to injuries that arise as people are hit by falling debris. Additionally, health centers and hospitals are often damaged by tornadoes, or medical staff are impacted, reducing overall access to services.
However, with this year’s tornadoes, there are also many pre-existing health conditions that will have significant long-term impacts. For example, the Mississippi State Department of Health said, “Mississippi ranks last, or close to last, in almost every leading health outcome. In Mississippi and nationwide, these health disparities are significantly worse for those who have systematically faced obstacles to health due to their socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, geographic location, and other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion. The result is a disproportionate burden of disease and illness that is borne by racial and ethnic minority populations and the rural and urban poor. Health disparities not only affect the groups facing health inequities, but limit overall improvements in quality of care, the health status for the broader population, and results in unnecessary costs.”
People living in the Deep South – which has experienced many tornadoes this year – have a lower life expectancy rate than other communities because of high rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity. This is exacerbated in Black populations.
Emotional and spiritual care
Emotional and spiritual care will be critical, especially for families of people killed in the storms, first responders and those in the tornadoes’ direct paths. Long-term mental health and trauma support will also be required. Some of the affected communities were impacted by previous events, which has left them with increased trauma from natural hazards.
There is also severe risk of poor emotional health, suicide or self-harming behaviors among farmers and ranchers after disasters. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network is designed to build “a network that connects individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations to stress assistance programs. The establishment of a network that assists farmers and ranchers in time of stress can offer a conduit to improving behavioral health awareness, literacy, and outcomes for agricultural producers, workers and their families.” They provide grants to help with this.
Business recovery will be critical to help communities rebuild. The tornadoes damaged or destroyed businesses, negatively impacting people’s livelihoods at a time when many were already struggling more than usual because of COVID-19 and recovery from other disasters. This is particularly true of small businesses.
Navigating assistance process
Disaster assistance may be available in various forms and from different sources. People will need help navigating a complicated assistance process, particularly undocumented people and people whose first language is not English. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are very complicated. Many people do not understand the nature of loans and fear being saddled with high-interest rates.
A recently released study from the U.S. Commission on Human Rights found that FEMA did not equitably serve at-risk populations, including people with disabilities, people living in poverty and English as a second language speakers during Hurricanes Harvey or Maria in 2017.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy will continue to monitor the impact of tornadoes and the needs that may arise.
To support tornado recovery efforts, please donate to CDP’s Tornado Recovery Fund.
(Source: Tornado damage in the Mount Vernon area in Mobile County, Alabama. Photo credit: Citronelle Mayor Jason Springer via Twitter)
If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.
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Philanthropic and government support
President Joe Biden has approved several major disaster declarations for tornado-impacted states. Some are for Individual Assistance (IA) and some include Public Assistance (PA), Categories A and B, or A-G. All numbers are current as of Oct 23, 2023.
- (DR-4697) for Mississippi IA and PA for six counties and PA only for one (Categories A-G). For IA, 3,743 applications had been approved for a total of nearly $12.85 million. Just $25 million had been obligated in public assistance spending, most for emergency response.
- DR-4698 for Arkansas IA and PA (A-G) for three counties. For IA, 3,593 applications had been approved for $9.51 million. Over $20.3 million in public assistance has been obligated.
- DR-4701 for Tennessee for straight-line winds, tornadoes and severe storms that took place from March 31 to April 1, with a mix of Individual and Public Assistance throughout the state. For IA, 757 applications had been approved, and slightly more than $3.6 million in IA was allocated. Over $1.98 million has been obligated for PA.
- DR-4702 in Kentucky was approved for a variety of hazards, including tornadoes, that occurred March 3 and 4. Almost the entire state – 88 counties – was approved for PA, with $2.42 million obligated. Additionally, just under $200,000 was obligated in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
- DR-4704 was approved for March 31 and April 1 Indiana tornadoes and storms. Eight counties have been approved for IA and PA, one for PA only and four for IA only. For IA, 280 applications have been approved for $2.5 million and $2.8 obligated for PA.
- DR-4706 for Oklahoma storms and tornadoes on April 19 and 20. Three counties received an IA declaration, with two of those also receiving PA approval. For IA, 448 applications have been approved for $2.85 million in assistance. Just over $200,000 has been obligated for PA.
- DR-4709 was approved for Florida tornadoes and storms occurring on April 12-14 was approved, with 9,579 IA applications approved for $36.4 million, and $2.69 million in PA was obligated. Broward County is the only one to be approved and it includes IA and PA.
- DR-4710 for Alabama for events on March 24-27. Nine counties received PA, categories A-G with $3.96 million obligated.
- DR-4712 for Tennessee severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes from March 1 to 3. About half the state – 45 counties – have received PA declarations, with $1.2 million obligated. DR-4721 for Oklahoma was approved for severe storms, straight-line winds and tornadoes, with 19 counties approved for PA A-G. No funding has been obligated to date.
- DR-4727 for Mississippi Severe Storms, Straight-Line Winds and Tornadoes, with 14 counties and the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Reservation receiving approval for Public Assistance A-G and two counties receiving assistance for IA and PA. In IA, 669 applications were received for a total of almost $3 million.
- DR-4731 for Colorado Severe Storms, Flooding and Tornadoes, with nine counties approved for PA (Categories A-G). No money has been obligated to date.
- DR-4741 for Missouri Severe Storms, Straight-Line Winds, Tornadoes and Flooding, with 33 counties approved for PA (Categories A-G). No funding has been obligated.
- DR-4742 for Tennessee Severe Storms, Straight-Line Winds and Tornadoes with 10 counties designated for PA (Categories A-G). No funding has been obligated.
USDA is providing financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers in the Mississippi Delta, a major cotton-producing area. USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) was activated in several states after the tornadoes this year. D-SNAP provides financial assistance to help feed families who have been affected by a disaster, including those who don’t normally receive or qualify for benefits. Families or individuals already in receipt of SNAP funds may have their amount increased to subsidize food lost in a disaster.
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had provided policy and legislative exclusions to assist their local and state partners, including “providing a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) as well as foreclosures of mortgages to Native American borrowers guaranteed under the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee program. There is also a 90-day extension granted automatically for Home Equity Conversion Mortgages … Making mortgage insurance available … making insurance available for both mortgage and home rehabilitation … providing flexibility to Public Housing Agencies … providing flexibility to Tribes … ensuring HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are ready to assist and assisting with housing discrimination.”
After the late March tornadoes across Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, Housing and Urban Development committed $200,000 to support its partners, including the American Red Cross, Convoy of Hope, Operation Blessing, Team Rubicon, Inspiritus and ToolBank Disaster Services and World Central Kitchen.
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced $400,000 in cash and in-kind support for the Mississippi tornadoes. They are using three store parking lots to provide meals and distribute water, and in Amory to provide showers. Two locations have food from Operation BBQ, while one is utilizing a Walmart cook trailer. They said, “Our philanthropy aims to improve entire systems, not just respond in the moment. These investments also support efforts to help communities build resiliency and respond more quickly and effectively when disaster strikes.” Read more here.
The National Weather Service defines tornadoes as “a violently rotating column of air touching the ground, usually attached to the base of a thunderstorm.” The U.S. is home to more tornadoes than any other country in the world, with approximately 900 to 1,700 tornadoes occurring a year throughout the country.
Rural populations often struggle with disaster response and recovery. Explore why.
Long-Term Recovery Groups
A long-term recovery group is a cooperative body that is made up of representatives from faith-based, nonprofit, government, business and other organizations working within a community to assist individuals and families as they recover from disaster.