When Is Tornado Season? What to Know and How to Prepare

Find out the most likely time of year that a tornado might occur in your region.
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Tornado forming behind a suburban home, presumably during tornado season
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Tornado season is when the U.S. sees the most tornado watches, warnings, and touchdowns, but precisely when is tornado season during the year? Because the answer depends heavily on regional factors, tornado season may start as early as March and end as late as July in your state.

While tornadoes can and do occur at any time of the year, it’s still a good idea to know when your state’s tornado season is, which states get the most tornadoes, and how to prepare for a tornado.

Tornado season in Texas, Florida, and other Gulf Coast states peaks from March through May.

Due to the Gulf of Mexico’s tendency to produce severe weather and storms, tornado formation is common along the Gulf Coast. States in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. (spanning Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) have their peak tornado season in spring, lasting from March through May. However, the Gulf Coast also has a high incidence rate of tornadoes in the late fall.

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Tornado touching down in Florida with palm trees in the foreground
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For states situated in Tornado Alley, tornado season peaks during the summer.

The states with the most tornadoes that touch down annually comprise the large geographic area known as Tornado Alley—but where is Tornado Alley exactly? This region is loosely defined, but it’s commonly understood to stretch from the Southern Plains (including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) up into the Northern Plains (affecting Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming) and Upper Midwest (covering parts of South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota).

In Tornado Alley, there are two distinct tornado seasons: The Southern Plains tornado season reaches its height in May through June, while tornado season in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest peaks from June through July.

Tornado season resurges in autumn, and it technically never ends.

That all answers when tornado season starts to worsen each year, but when does tornado season end? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Tornadoes and the severe weather events that cause them, such as hurricanes, tropical storms and severe thunderstorms, can happen at any time of year. Tornadoes simply occur with the greatest frequency in the above regions during peak tornado season, but no area or month is guaranteed to be tornado-free.

In fact, some states see another spike in tornado formation in the fall. In Gulf Coast states like Florida and Texas, tornado season peaks again as early as October and into December. This phenomenon is mostly contained to Southern states, but it bears repeating that tornadoes can form anywhere in the U.S. year round. Under the right weather conditions, autumn or winter tornadoes can also touch down in any other state.

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House with a tornado forming in the background
Photo: istockphoto.com

Regardless of where you live, tornado preparation is important all year long.

Per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the precise cause and mechanics of tornado formation isn’t completely understood. And a changing climate producing more of the weather conditions typically associated with tornado frequency could potentially change or exacerbate where most tornadoes occur or affect the length of peak tornado season.

Since tornadoes can form anywhere in or out of peak tornado season, you should keep your household prepared for this common type of severe weather event. Use these preventative tips to form a safety plan and ensure you have what you need in case a tornado watch or warning is issued in your area:

• Install hurricane shutters on your windows to help minimize damage to your home
• Keep a fully supplied tornado emergency kit with water, nonperishable food, and other essentials for every member of the household
• Make sure your basement is tornado-ready and contains a safe area away from windows and unsecured appliances
• Have fully charged portable phone chargers and a battery-powered emergency radio or TV on hand to stay up-to-the-minute on weather updates