Midwest Storms Wrap from Jeff Masters
November 20, 2013
Damage surveys continue in the Midwest U.S. after a stunning and violent late-season severe weather outbreak swept through on Sunday, killing at least eight people and leaving widespread significant damage. Two violent EF-4 tornadoes and one strong EF-3 tornado hit Illinois, killing six, making Sunday Illinois’ deadliest November day for tornadoes in its history. The most widespread damage from Sunday’s outbreak occurred in the town of Washington (population 16,000), about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, where a violent EF-4 tornado destroyed or heavily damaged 250 – 500 homes and an apartment complex.
NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center logged 85 preliminary tornado reports from Sunday, along with 455 reports of high wind gusts and 32 reports of hail. Seventeen of the wind gusts were in excess of 74 mph (hurricane strength.) The grand total of 572 severe weather reports (filtered to remove duplicates) for the day were themost of any day of 2013, surpassing the 538 total reports from June 13. The 85 preliminary tornado reports is also the highest for any day of 2013, surpassing the 62 reports from January 29.
View of the F-3 Brookport Illinois, tornado – ironically from the wheelhouse of a coal barge on the Ohio River.
Sunday’s November tornado outbreak: how rare?
Sunday’s outbreak will probably rank as the second to fourth most prolific November tornado outbreak since 1950. But what was really remarkable about the outbreak was how far north it extended. With three confirmed tornadoes on Sunday, Michigan has increased its total number November tornadoes observed since 1950 by 50%, from six to nine. Prior to Sunday, Indiana had recorded 57 November tornadoes. That total increased by 26 on Sunday, which was the 3rd busiest day for tornadoes in Indiana history (the record: 37 tornadoes on June 2, 1990.) Seven confirmed tornadoes occurred in the 23-county region of Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana serviced by the Chicago NWS.
Prior to Sunday’s tornado outbreak, there had been just twelve November tornadoes in this region since accurate tornado records began in 1950. The 101 tornado warnings issued in Illinois on Sunday represented 52% of all November tornado warnings issued in the state since 1986. The two EF-4 tornadoes that struck Illinois were the 2nd and 4th most northerly EF-4s ever recorded in the U.S. during the month of November, according to data from the Tornado History Project. Prior to Sunday, only twenty EF-4s had occurred in the U.S. in November dating back to 1950. Also notable is the fact that the intensity and areal extent of this severe weather outbreak resulted in widespread damage over a huge area, making it possible that this will be the first November severe weather outbreak in history to exceed $1 billion in damages. November severe weather outbreaks are rare enough and our database poor enough that we cannot make any definitive statements on how climate change may be affecting them, but one would expect to see cold-season severe weather events become increasingly common farther to the north in a warming climate.
Here is a list of the largest November tornado outbreaks since 1950:
95 tornadoes: November 21–23, 1992, Texas to Mississippi and into the Ohio Valley. The most intense and largest November outbreak on record in U.S. history. Produced violent tornadoes from Texas to Mississippi and into the Ohio Valley, including six F4s and two extremely long-track tornadoes, 160 miles and 128 miles.
75 tornadoes: November 9–11, 2002, Southeast U.S. and Ohio Valley. Very large and deadly outbreak produced multiple killer tornadoes across the Ohio Valley and Southeastern United States. A violent F4 hit Van Wert, Ohio, killing four people. Deadly F3 also hit Mossy Grove, Tennessee, killing seven.
67 tornadoes: November 23–24, 2001, Southeast U.S. Thirteen people killed.
50 tornadoes: November 15, 2005, Central and Southeast U.S. One person killed.
50 tornadoes: November 15 – 16, 1987, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mississippi.