When I moved to Huntsville in 2019, I knew the Tennessee Valley had a reputation as one of the most tornado-prone places in the country. Certainly, I’ve had opportunity to cover a few tornadoes here in North Alabama since I joined WHNT in 2019, but the past couple of years haven’t been producing tornadoes at the rates we’ve come to expect here.
It’s been 520 days since Madison or Jackson counties have been placed under a tornado warning! That number is even higher for Lincoln county, Tennessee, where they haven’t had a tornado warning in 638 days. For Lawrence, Morgan, and Marshall county, it’s been more than 365 days! That’s incredibly unusual for us. Since the inception of polygon (storm based) warnings in 2008, Madison county averages about 8 tornado warnings per year!
Our most recent tornado warnings were in Colbert and Limestone counties. While those storms were rotating and had the potential to produce a tornado, they didn’t (the storm that prompted the tornado warning in Colbert county had produced a damaging tornado in Tishomingo County, MS).
The one spot where we haven’t seen much of a drop in tornado warning frequency is Northwest Alabama. Colbert and Franklin counties in particular have seen several tornado warnings this year, and western Colbert county has been under a warning more than any other spot in the Tennessee Valley this year.
While things haven’t been as active as we might usually expect, we have seen 20 tornadoes in North Alabama and Southern Tennessee since 2020.
Many of these tornadoes occurred on the edges of the area covered by the NWS Huntsville. The two strongest tornadoes occurred back on April 12, 2020, when two separate EF-2 tornadoes hit the Walter community in Cullman county and Boaz in southern Marshall county.
Of course, just because things have been quiet so far doesn’t mean they’ll stay quiet. Late fall into winter starts our secondary peak of severe weather season, and one of our most devastating tornadoes in recent memory, the December 17, 2019 Town Creek tornado, occurred in this “secondary” season.
We’ll start to enter severe weather season again by late October. Make sure you have a severe weather safety plan and multiple ways to receive a warning like a NOAA Weather Radio and Live Alert 19. You can download Live Alert 19 for Android and iOS.