The deadliest January for tornadoes since 1969

The deadliest January for tornadoes since 1969

Severe weather outbreak in the southeastern United States on Saturday and Sunday, January 21 and 22, produced destructive tornadoes which killed 19 people, 15 in southern Georgia and 4 in Mississippi. In total, this round of severe weather is responsible for 20 deaths.

Although it is important to note that these numbers are still preliminary and could change as more information is collected, they made January 2017 the month with most tornado deaths since January 1969 when 32 people lost their lives and the second deadliest January on record (1959 - 99), according to Storm Prediction Center.

For comparison, January 1969 saw only 3 tornadoes while preliminary reports for January 2017 mention 109.

Of note is January 1999, with a total of 212 tornadoes and 18 deaths.

Furthermore, in just two days, the death toll from tornadoes in January 2017 topped the entire 2016 (the year with second-fewest tornado deaths) when 17 people were killed.

On average, between 1950 and 1999, tornadoes were responsible for 89 deaths per year. For January, this average is only 2.

Tornado damage in Adel, Georgia where 7 people died after EF3 tornado ripped through a mobile home park. Credit: MesoStorm.net

"The tornadoes that occurred over the weekend were right in the southern US corridor where they are most likely during January when atmospheric conditions come together," explained Chris Dolce of The Weather Channel.

"Those atmospheric components included powerful upper-level and surface low-pressure systems sweeping in across the region from the west. This helped to pull warm, moist air needed for the generation of thunderstorms into the Deep South."

Many of the tornado deaths this weekend occurred in a situation meteorologists fear most – tornadoes that develop overnight or early in the morning when most are asleep. All four deaths in Hattiesburg and 12 of the 15 deaths in southern Georgia happened when tornadoes struck in the early-morning hours well before sunrise, Dolce concluded.

Tornado reports between January 1 and 24, 2017

According to preliminary SPC data, there was a total of 109 tornado reports between January 1 and 24, 2017; 64 of them between January 19 and 22 (4 on January 19, 7 on January 20, 39 on January 21 and 14 on January 22).

Fatal extremes statistics (1950-99)

Most tornado deaths in one year ..................... 519 in 1953

Fewest tornado deaths in one year ...................  15 in 1986

Most tornado deaths in January ......................... 32 in 1969
Most tornado deaths in February ..................... 134 in 1971
Most tornado deaths in March ......................... 209 in 1952
Most tornado deaths in April ............................ 317 in 1974
Most tornado deaths in May ............................. 163 in 1953
Most tornado deaths in June ............................. 244 in 1953
Most tornado deaths in July ................................ 11 in 1978
Most tornado deaths in August .......................... 29 in 1990
Most tornado deaths in September .................... 15 in 1961
Most tornado deaths in October ......................... 22 in 1964
Most tornado deaths in November ..................... 31 in 1989
Most tornado deaths in December ..................... 19 in 1957

Reference:

Tornadoes and Deaths by year and month 1950-1999 (NOAA/SPC)

Featured image: Adel, Georgia - damage after EF3 tornado swept through a mobile home park. Credit: MesoStorm.net

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