Tornadoes - Spring (MAM) 2008

For the period January through May, a total of 112 tornado fatalities have been reported. This ties with 1968 as the 8th deadliest January through May period since reliable records began in 1953.

Important: The graph above-left represents the number of tornadoes from January— March and preliminary tornado reports from April—May 2008. Final numbers are not yet available and may reflect a significant change, as represented by the error-bar above. Data current as of June 6, 2008.

The beginning of 2008 brought a strong cold front that advanced slowly into relatively warm air, resulting in 54 confirmed reports of tornadoes across the Midwest on January 7-8, making it the second-largest January tornado outbreak on record [the largest was January 21-22, 1999, when 138 tornadoes struck the southern Mississippi Valley]. At least five deaths and numerous injuries were blamed on these cold-season twisters and high winds. Although tornadic outbreaks in January are not common, they more frequently occur in the Central and Southern states and are quite rare in the north-central Plains. The January 7 tornadoes in Wisconsin were the second instance of January tornado reports on record in that state; the first occurred in 1967. Eighty-four tornadoes were confirmed from January 2008 in the Continental U.S.

February brought a deadly tornado outbreak on the evening and night of the 5th, nicknamed the "Super Tuesday Outbreak" for the large number of presidential primaries earlier that day. Fifty-seven deaths in the southeastern U.S., 32 in Tennessee alone, were blamed on these storms. This was the highest number of fatalities in a single tornado outbreak since the Ohio- Pennsylvania outbreak of May 31, 1985 killed 76. The total of 58 tornado fatalities reported in February was the second-highest number for the month on record, second only to 1971 when 134 people lost their lives. One of the tornadoes in Arkansas, responsible for 12 fatalities, set a new state record path length of 123 miles from Yell to Sharp Counties. The previous record from February 20, 1951 was 112 miles. Later in the month, a second wave of tornadoes was responsible for nearly 50 injuries. One hundred forty-eight confirmed tornadoes occurred in February 2008 in the Continental U.S.

In March, an EF2 tornado moved through downtown Atlanta on the evening of Friday March 14th, causing significant damage to many buildings, including the Georgia Dome, which was struck while a Southeast Conference (SEC) tournament basketball game was in progress. This was one of 90 preliminary tornado reports from the Southeast in March, accounting for 61% of all of the reported March tornadoes in the nation. Finalized tornado counts for March 2008 totaled 118.

Several strong storm systems affected the central and eastern U.S. during April. On the 4th, 21 preliminary tornado reports were received across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina, while 62 preliminary reports of tornadoes swept across Texas and Oklahoma April 9-11. Near the end of April, a strong frontal boundary passed across southeastern Virginia, producing 10 preliminary reports of tornadoes, the worst producing EF3 magnitude damage. Tornado counts have not yet been finalized for April 2008.

Severe storms ripped through the central U.S. on May 1-2, spawning over 90 combined reports of tornadoes, hail, and severe winds. Eleven reported tornadoes in Arkansas claimed the lives of 7 people. The following weekend, over 80 preliminary tornadoes were reported in the central and southeastern U.S. on May 10, claiming the lives of 23 people: 14 in Missouri, 7 in Oklahoma, and 2 in Georgia. Nearly two weeks later, 15 tornadoes were reported across much of central and western Kansas on May 22-23. The strongest of these occurred near Quinter on May 23 and was classified as an EF4. Numerous tornadoes hit Iowa on May 25; the worst was a deadly EF5 tornado in Parkersburg that claimed the lives of 7 people, caused an estimated $5.8 million in damage, and destroyed more than 200 homes and 21 businesses. The last time an F5 tornado occurred in Iowa was on June 13, 1976. An EF3 tornado touched down in Anoka County, MN on May 25, killing a small child, injuring eight other people, destroying at least 50 homes and seriously damaging 100 others. The May 2008 tornado counts have not yet been finalized.

More information on severe weather can also be found on NCDC's Hazards page.

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Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Tornadoes for Spring (MAM) 2008, published online June 2008, retrieved on January 21, 2018 from