With the threat of severe weather tomorrow (Wednesday 12/23/15) it is important to remember that tornadoes can and do happen in our part of the country this time of the year! According to the National Weather Service Birmingham, there have been 127 confirmed December tornadoes in Alabama over the 64 years between 1950-2014.
Alabama is second only to Texas with 39 Christmas week (December 23-27) tornadoes since 1950. The strongest Alabama tornado on record in December was the Tuscaloosa F4 on 12/16/2000. This tornado was responsible for 11 fatalities and 144 injuries. This tornado was caught live on a tower camera during James Spann’s coverage.
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The last significant December tornado outbreak in Alabama was on Christmas Day 2012. On that day 17 tornadoes occurred in the state, five of which were rated EF2. The remainder were rated EF0 or EF1. This outbreak was confined to South Alabama.
Following are some of the most significant December tornado outbreaks in Alabama through the years:
- On 12/23/1956 an F2 tornado travelled on a 122 mile long track through Monroe, Conecuh, Butler, Lowndes, Montgomery, Elmore, and Tallapoosa counties. This is the third longest track tornado on record in Alabama.
- Five tornadoes occurred in East Alabama and Georgia 12/5/1954. These were responsible for one fatality and 70 injuries.
- On December 10 and 11, 1961 eight tornadoes were documented in southern and eastern parts of Alabama.
- Six tornadoes occurred 12/18/1967. This included an F2 tornado in Morgan and Madison counties which was responsible for two fatalities and 28 injuries. According to the NWS Huntsville, this tornado touched down in the Talucah community just south of the Tennessee River. As the tornado moved across South Huntsville, it destroyed 22 houses, caused major damage to 46 houses, and minor damage to 68 houses. Sixteen mobile homes were destroyed along with extensive damage to automobiles, power lines, and commercial buildings. The tornado ended near Gurley, east of Huntsville. Here are a couple of excerpts from The Huntsville Times about this tornado:
- An F3 tornado occurred in Monroe County in South Alabama 12/20/1971.
- Nine tornadoes occurred on multiple days in December 1973 across Alabama. These tornadoes were responsible for 30 injuries. This included an F2 tornado that injured one person in Crossville in DeKalb County.
- Thirteen tornadoes occurred on multiple dates in December 1983. Most of these occurred in Central Alabama. Three fatalities and 71 injuries occurred from tornadoes in Alabama that month. College football fans may remember the 12/3/1983 Iron Bowl because one of the cells that later produced a tornado moved directly over Legion Field during the game. Below is a clipping from the Anniston Star.
Iron Bowl interrupted for a Tornado Warning:
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- There was a relative “drought” of December tornadoes in Alabama after 1983 until a major outbreak occurred 12/16/2000. The most significant tornado that day was the previously mentioned F4 that struck Tuscaloosa, killing 11 people and injuring 144 others. There were at least three tornadoes in the Tennessee Valley that day in Lawrence and Limestone counties in Alabama and one in Lincoln County, Tennessee.
- Two tornadoes occurred in North Alabama in December 2008. On 12/10/2008 an EF2 tornado struck portions of central Jackson county around 1 a.m. near the Pikeville community north of Scottsboro. On Christmas Eve 2008 at 3:33 in the afternoon an EF1 tornado destroyed two unoccupied mobile homes, two sheds, and caused roof damage to some site-built homes near Belle Mina in Limestone County.
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The bottom line is that severe weather and tornadoes do not care what day it is on the calendar. December has the sixth highest monthly total of tornadoes in Alabama since 1950. What matters is not the date but rather the atmospheric conditions. All indications as of this writing are that conditions will be favorable for severe weather and tornadoes in the Mid-South and Tennessee Valley on Wednesday and Wednesday night. This is the time to make sure you and your family can get the warning and have a viable safety plan should a warning be issued for your area.
National Weather Service Huntsville
National Weather Service Birmingham
ABC 33/40 Birmingham
The Huntsville Times
The Anniston Star