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Breakdown: Why Tennessee gets the most nighttime tornadoes

Published: Oct. 31, 2021 at 5:45 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -In the south we can see severe weather all year round and any time of day. The most dangerous time to get tornadoes are at night of course and nighttime tornadoes have increased over the past decade. Tornadoes that happen overnight occur the most in Tennessee more than any other state in the U.S.

On March 2 and 3, ten tornadoes touchdown at night. One was an EF-3 that struck Nashville and an EF-4 that struck Putnam County. These twisters killed 25 people and there were hundreds of injuries reported.

In 2020 Tennessee had the highest number of fatalities from nighttime twisters. Researchers believe that this is due to densely populated areas and parts of Tennessee being densely populated, plus people not being able to get warnings while asleep. Not to mention, it is hard to see tornadoes at night and some feel the need to get confirmation, wanting to see it, before getting to safety.

So what makes Tennessee so vulnerable to nighttime twisters? Some scientist attribute the nighttime tornado frequency to the abundance of moisture in the south. Storms don’t weaken and die out like they do in the Midwest because of the moisture that gets drawn in from the Gulf can sometimes linger. Some scientist say that the odds of a nighttime tornado is greater, because of the shorter daylight hours. Tornadoes can occur from November to April in the south.

In addition Tennessee gets QLCS which are lines of storms that move fast and can cause strong winds and tornadoes. These type of storms usually develop in the evening and nighttime hours. Wind shear and a good amount of instability are also key ingredients that tend to come together in Tennessee and the Mid-South.

Some ways you can prepare

  • Have multiple ways to receive weather updates, like the First Alert Weather App or a NOAA weather radio storm alert app or a weather radio that sound an alarm to help wake you up.
  • Have a plan in place ahead of time- know where to go
  • Have a emergency storm kit ready to go in the invite of a weather emergency

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