St. Patrick’s Day tornadoes: 6th-biggest tornado event in AL history

Based on total number of tornadoes
Chilton Co. tornado damage SOURCE: WSFA
Chilton Co. tornado damage SOURCE: WSFA
Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 6:59 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - When it comes to the number of tornadoes to touch down in Alabama since 1950 during a single weather event, the March 17th, 2021 tornado outbreak has taken over 6th place!

That ranking only factors in the actual number of tornadoes; it does not incorporate the damage done, the cost of the damage done, injuries, fatalities, or the ratings on the EF-Scale of the various tornadoes.

Still, to reach #6 on any severe weather or tornado list in the state is significant considering Alabama’s history.

The official tornado count for the event is 25. The maps above are courtesy of the National Weather Service in Birmingham, and they include all but one of the tornadoes. The 25th tornado touched down along U.S. 231 in southeastern Montgomery County. It was rated EF0.

Nearly all of the event’s tornadoes were rated EF0 or EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. There were no tornadoes rated higher than EF2. Here’s the breakdown:

  • EF0 tornadoes: 9
  • EF1 tornadoes: 13
  • EF2 tornadoes: 3

It’s always a good thing when you see a “0″ next to EF3, EF4 and EF5 after a tornado event. But even weak and short-lived tornadoes can cause damage and problems.

Stats about the March 17th tornado outbreak in Alabama.
Stats about the March 17th tornado outbreak in Alabama.(WSFA 12 News)

Here are some additional stats to further put this tornado event into perspective:

  • Strongest tornado: Pools Crossings (Chilton County) EF2 with a max wind speed of 130 mph
  • Longest path: 36.5 miles from Wayne County, MS, to Marengo County, AL (EF2)
  • Counties with most tornadoes: Tuscaloosa and Marengo with four apiece
  • Total injuries and fatalities: 7 injuries, 0 fatalities
  • Time of event in Alabama: roughly 18 hours of consecutive severe thunderstorm and/or tornado warnings
  • Highest severe weather risk from Storm Prediction Center: level 5-of-5 “high risk”

Not only is this event the 6th-largest overall in terms of tornado count, it’s the largest March tornado event in Alabama’s recorded history. Since 1950, the five single tornado events to strike the state that remain ahead of this outbreak are:

  1. April 27, 2011 -- 62
  2. April 15, 2011 -- 45
  3. November 24-25, 2001 -- 36
  4. April 28-29, 2014 -- 29
  5. April 12, 2020 -- 27

It’s pretty clear that middle and late April take the cake for featuring the most significant tornado outbreaks here in Alabama. After all, April is by far our most active tornado month when looking at averages.

But it’s important to remember that it doesn’t take a tornado outbreak with numerous tornadoes to be memorable. Just think of the Fultondale EF3 tornado earlier this year -- that tornado was not an outbreak, yet it caused significant damage and will go down as one of the most unforgettable tornadoes in state history.

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