Tornadoes - February 2016
This analysis is based on preliminary data available from the Storm Prediction Center. Final tornado counts published by the Storm Prediction Center and NCEI's Storm Events Database might differ from this report. For a more detailed climatology, please visit our tornado climatology page.
According to data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, during February, there were 138 preliminary tornado reports. This is more than four times the 1991-2010 average of 29 for the month. Tornado activity during February is highly variable with some Februaries very active and others having few observed tornadoes. The most active February was in 2008 when there were over confirmed 140 tornadoes reported. When the final tornado count is determined, the February 2016 value will likely be the second highest since reliable records began in 1950. During February 2016, most of the tornado activity occurred across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic over the course of three separate outbreaks. There were seven tornado-related fatalities on the 23rd and 24th — four in Virginia, two in Louisiana, and one in Mississippi.
The largest severe weather outbreak occurred on the 23rd and 24th as a strong low pressure system moved through the Midwest and Northeast with a strong cold front trailing to the south. Ahead of the cold front warm, moist air was transported northward from the Gulf of Mexico and created unstable conditions, ideal for severe weather. Over the two days there were 79 preliminary tornado reports, 52 on the 23rd, mostly across the Southeast, and 27 on the 24th across the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast. On the 23rd an EF-3 tornado touched down in Pensacola, Florida resulting in several injuries. Numerous homes and apartment buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, and a warehouse at the local General Electric plant was demolished. Two fatalities were reported in St. James Parish, Louisiana from an EF-3 rated tornado. Another fatality was reported in Lamar County, Mississippi when an EF-2 tornado struck a mobile home. On the 24th an EF-3 tornado, with a maximum path width of 500 yards, tracked 30 miles across four counties in east-central Virginia killing one person and injuring another 25 people. Another three people were killed near Wakefield, Virginia due to an EF-1 striking a home. The four fatalities in Virginia are the most for a single tornado outbreak since the Super Outbreak in April 2011. A rare occurrence for the Northeast, especially during the winter months, an EF-2 tornado damaged around 50 structures and caused an estimated $8 million in damage in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and an EF-1 tornado caused damage in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.