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Subject : L7) What is the largest known outbreak of TC tornadoes?

Contributed by Bill McCaul (USRA), Chris Vaccaro (NWS) and the National Hurricane Center


2004's Hurricane Ivan caused a multi-day outbreak of 127 tornadoes, with the bulk of the tornadoes on 17 September in the mid-Atlantic region, some two days after Ivan's landfall in Alabama. State-by-state tornado counts from Ivan include Florida with 22, Georgia 25, Alabama 8, South Carolina 7, North Carolina 4, Virginia 40, West Virginia 3, Maryland 9, and Pennsylvania 9. There were 26 tornadoes on 15 September, 32 on 16 September, 63 on 17 September, 2 on 18 September, and 4 on 19 September. At least 7 people were killed and 17 injured by these tornadoes.

The previous record was during Hurricane Beulah, which spawned a reported 115 tornadoes in southeast Texas during the first several days after its landfall in September 1967 (Orton 1970). Frances of 2004 is close behind in third place, with 106 tornadoes, and Rita of 2005 is in fourth place with 92. For a list of the top 30 tornado producing TCs, see the website:

The Tornado Project's list of top 30 hurricanes producing tornadoes

While it is difficult to predict which TCs will produce large tornado outbreaks, there is evidence suggesting that the likelihood of a major outbreak increases for TCs that are large, intense, are recurving and entering the westerlies, have forward speeds from about 8-18 mph, and are interacting with old, weakened frontal boundaries. In addition, the TC's right-front quadrant must receive significant exposure to land, and this strongly favors TCs making landfall on the Gulf coast as opposed to those grazing the Carolinas (McCaul, 1991; McCaul et al., 2004).


Last updated May 6, 2014

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