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Tornado Season in Alabama: How to Prepare and What to Expect

Spring is one of our favorite times of year here in Alabama. The cold dark winter is moving on, flowers are starting to bloom, and dramatic thunderstorms are rolling across the state. But thunderstorms aren’t always just lightning shows and rainfall; they sometimes come with deadly tornadoes.

Our team of professionals here at Aux Home Services wants all of our clients and members of the community to feel prepared for the potential dangers of storm season. That’s why we’ve put together this guide for tornado season in Alabama.

If you’re currently under a tornado watch or tornado warning, stop reading this article and check your local news station or NOAA Weather Radio to stay safe. Seek shelter in your basement or an interior room away from windows.

Tornado Season in Alabama

Which months are tornado season in Alabama?

Peak tornado season in Alabama is March, April, and early May, according to the University of Alabama. Certain parts of the state also have a second, smaller tornado season in November and early December. In fact, Alabama is the top-ranked state in the country for Thanksgiving-week tornadoes (Weather.gov).

Tornado statistics in Alabama

Alabama may not be in what’s traditionally considered “tornado alley”, but we’re one of the most active tornado states in the country!

Where is Tornado Alley in Alabama?
Alabama’s tornado alley cuts a diagonal line northeast from Tuscaloosa County to DeKalb County.

What Alabama counties most commonly get hit by tornadoes?
Alabama’s top 5 counties for tornadoes from 1950 to 2019 are:

  1. Jefferson County (105 tornadoes)
  2. Mobile County (100 tornadoes)*
  3. Baldwin County (97 tornadoes)*
  4. Cullman County (95 tornadoes)
  5. Tuscaloosa County (83 tornadoes)

*Note that these counties are not in Alabama’s primary tornado alley.

Is Alabama in the United States’ tornado alley?
Interestingly, the answer to this question has changed over the past decades. Due to the planet’s changing and warming climate, tornado alley in the United States has shifted eastward. The “classic” tornado alley goes straight up the center of the country through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Lately, tornado alley has shifted to cover Arkansas, northern Alabama, western Tennessee, and parts of several nearby states.

How many F5 tornadoes have hit Alabama?
Nine F5 tornadoes have touched down in Alabama since 1950 (two of which did not produce F5 damage in the state).

In the same time period, Alabama experienced 36 F4 tornadoes.

How tornadoes affect your home

Now that you know when and where to expect tornadoes in Alabama, it’s important to understand the serious damage tornadoes can do.

Can a house survive a tornado?

Yes, a house can survive a tornado, but it is uncommon and depends on several factors.

  • Houses built in tornado alley are more likely to have been designed to withstand tornadoes’ strong winds. Buildings in Alabama may not be designed to these specifications.
  • Even if a house is built to withstand strong winds, very few (if any) homes will survive a direct hit from an F2 or stronger. Direct hits from F3 or stronger tornadoes can destroy a building in under five seconds.

How do tornadoes damage homes?

Tornadoes’ destructive power comes entirely from their strong winds (that’s all a tornado is, really). It’s hard to even comprehend the force of 100-200 MPH winds, but they can wreak all kinds of havoc.

Broken Windows
If you’re lucky enough that your home is still standing, the most likely damage you’ll have is to your windows. Tornadoes hurl all kinds of debris at incredible speeds, and that can easily bust a hole (or several) in your windows.

Structural Damage
Once doors or windows are blown open, the high-pressure winds can blow into your home, potentially ripping the roof off your home or lifting the building off of its foundation.

Central HVAC, Electrical, and Plumbing Damage
People most commonly think of windows, walls, doors, and roofs when they hear about tornado damage, but what about all the other systems you rely on in your home? The forces and pressures tornadoes exert on buildings can strain and even break their plumbing pipes, central air ducts, and electrical components.

How to prepare for tornado season in Alabama

Being prepared can make all the difference. Here are a few questions you should answer.

  1. What part of my house is safest from tornadoes?
    If you have a basement or tornado shelter, that’s your best bet. Otherwise, seek out a central room, bathroom, or closet, preferably away from any windows.
  2. What should I have ready in my home before tornado season?
    Just as with any emergency preparedness kit, you should make sure to at least have several gallons of drinking water (one gallon per person for several days), non-perishable foods, and a first-aid kit.
  3. Should I install a whole-home generator?
    If you’re worried about losing power during a storm or tornado, a whole-home generator can be a good stop-gap solution to keep parts of your home powered up when the grid is down. If you live in the greater Birmingham area, we can install a home generator for you!

What to do after a tornado

Immediately after a tornado, your mind will likely be racing with dozens of worries and questions. Of course, if you or anyone in your family are injured, you should call 911 and try to seek medical help when it is safe to do so.

Once you’re certain everyone is safe, your next concern will be damage to your property. If you decide to check the house for damage yourself, be very careful, making sure you wear the proper protective clothing and equipment. Call your home insurance company to see if they have any protocol for assessing property damage. You may also want to contact a local home services company to get your plumbing, electricity, and HVAC back up and running.

Tornadoes are scary, destructive forces of nature, but knowledge and preparedness go a long way.


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