National Weather Service offices across Alabama and Tennessee are supporting Severe Weather Awareness Day on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. The purpose of this day is to call attention to a secondary peak in severe weather that occurs during the fall season. Although severe weather outbreaks across the Tennessee Valley, including the potential for strong to violent tornadoes, are more common during March, April and May, severe weather can happen at any time throughout the year. Since 1950, 71 tornadoes have occurred across North Alabama and Southern Middle Tennessee during the fall months (September/October/November/December).
The secondary spike in tornado/severe weather activity in the fall months historically peaks in November (as seen in the chart below on the left). However, as can also be seen in the chart below on the right, over the last 10 years (since 2003), tornadoes have more commonly occurred during October.
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Fall Season Severe Weather Episodes across the Huntsville NWS Forecast Area
- 2010: Numerous severe thunderstorms and several tornadoes affected the Tennessee Valley during late October. One of these was an EF-2 tornado which affected Jackson and Dekalb counties.
- 2009: Severe thunderstorms produced widespread wind damage across much of North Alabama and Southern Middle Tennessee on October 9th. An EF-1 tornado touched down just south of Fayetteville, Tennessee resulting in extensive damage around the Timber Lake community.
- 2007: Severe thunderstorms caused considerable straight-line wind damage across Northwest Alabama on October 18th. An EF-1 tornado tracked into southern Lawrence County, downing several trees in Bankhead National Forest.
- 2004: Severe weather occurred before the typical November secondary peak. Tornadoes struck Lauderdale and Colbert Counties on October 18th (check out the storm survey here).
- 2003: A significant line of thunderstorms plowed through the Tennessee Valley on November 18th, resulting in significant straight-line wind damage. Damaging wind gusts can be just as destructive as tornadoes.
- 2002: The infamous Veteran’s Day Tornado Outbreak produced an F3 tornado in Cullman County, which damaged more than 150 structures (check out the storm survey here).
- 2001: Six of the eight tornadoes that hit Northern Alabama this year occurred with the November 24th outbreak. This event broke a record for the number of tornadoes that occurred during a 24-hour period in the state of Alabama.
- Of course, the infamous 1989 Huntsville tornado occurred in November as well. This F4 tornado (207-260 mph winds) tore through south Huntsville on November 15, 1989, touching down on Redstone Arsenal at 4:30pm. The tornado eventually killed 21 people, injured more than 460 people, and caused more than $250 million in damages.