The Valley’s “other” tornado season picks up in October

Once the spring and summer months come to an end, it may be easy to think that severe weather season has also ended for the time being.

Or has it?

If you are new to the South, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the phrase "Dixie Alley Tornado Season." This phrase corresponds to the uptick in severe weather that occurs in the fall and winter months in the south.

Alabama Tornadoes by Month

In October alone, as many as 97 tornadoes have touched down in the state of Alabama. This number jumps considerably in November, when 266 tornadoes have touched down between 1950 and 2016.

The Alabama portion of the Tennessee Valley only covers about a quarter of the state, but the tornado trend rings true for the fall months. As many as 23 tornadoes have formed in the region in the month of October, and that number doubles heading into November.

Why the uptick in tornadoes during the fall season?

In the South, the same ingredients that are present for spring season severe weather is present in the fall: A warm, humid (tropical) airmass from the Gulf that is located over the South is violently replaced by cold, dry air surging south from Canada. The interaction of these two airmasses causes strong to severe thunderstorms, some of which have enough rotation within them to produce tornadoes.

In addition, many landfalling tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes spin up tornadoes as they move overland; these landfalling systems often to so during the month of October.

Notable October tornado events

  • On October 24, 1967, an F3 tornado injured one person in Lauderdale County. A separate F3 tornado injured three other people in Lawrence County.

Oct. 24, 1967 Colbert County Damage Assessment (Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information)

  • On October 15, 1974, an F1 tornado destroyed several chicken houses and sucked a pond dry. It also moved into downtown Albertville, where it overturned an automobile and injured an occupant inside.

    Oct 15 1974 Marshall County Damage Assessment (Source: NOAA National Centers For Environmental Information)

  • On October 25, 2010, as many as nine different tornadoes touched down in the Tennessee Valley. One of the stronger tornadoes, an EF2, touched down in Elliot Cross Roads in DeKalb County.¬†As the tornado moved into the town of Ider, it destroyed the bleachers and scoreboard at the Ider High School football field. The bleachers were solid concrete and were reinforced with 1/2 inch thick rebar.

October 25, 2010 DeKalb County Damage Assessment (Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information)

  • On October 3, 2014, two EF0 tornadoes touched down in Marshall and Madison counties; the tornado in Madison impacted an area near Redstone Arsenal.

    October 3, 2014 Madison County Damage Assessment (Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information)

  • On October 13, 2014, an EF1 tornado touched down in downtown Tuscumbia in Colbert County before moving into Muscle Shoals. It caused downed numerous trees on powerlines, causing extensive structural damage as well as injuring those trapped inside the buildings.

    October 13, 2014 Colbert County Damage Assessment (Source: NOAA National Centers For Environmental Information)