The year 2021 was intense when it came to tornadoes, with 1,376 confirmed across the country, as opposed to only 1,075 in 2020. Over 100 people lost their lives to these strong storms. Based on 2021 data, the states with the highest risk for tornadoes are Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, but tornadoes can and do occur in most of the country. Understanding your area’s risk level for tornadic activity could help you lessen the risk of property damage and injuries.
The worst states for tornadoes
There were ties in two ranking positions for the number of tornadoes per state in 2021, so this list actually includes 12 states this year. Although often associated with the central part of the United States, tornadic storms can develop and cause destruction just about anywhere in the country. Understanding your state’s tornado risk could help you prepare yourself, your family, your home and your vehicles for potential damage. So what state has the most tornadoes?
- Texas: Texas recorded 118 tornadoes in 2021, up from 102 in 2020. One of the worst tornadoes in Texas struck on May 27, 1997, and was the last confirmed EF5 tornado in the state. The Central Texas outbreak caused nearly $205 million in property damage (in 2020 dollars).
- Alabama: The 2021 tornado season spawned 100 tornadoes in Alabama, a sharp increase from 78 in 2020. The second-costliest tornado damage on record in the U.S. occurred in Tuscaloosa in April 2011, causing $8.8 billion in property losses (2021 dollars).
- Mississippi: Mississippi recorded 92 tornadoes in 2021, but thankfully only one fatality. .
- Illinois: 80 tornadoes touched down in the Land of Lincoln in 2021.
- Iowa: Iowa saw 70 confirmed tornadoes in 2021 and no deaths.
- Tennessee: 66 tornadoes wound their way through Tennessee in 2021, killing four people.
- Georgia and Kentucky: Georgia and Kentucky tied for the seventh place spot, with 57 tornadoes each. However, Kentucky fared worse, with 73 deaths reported, many from a tornado outbreak in December 2021, which was the fifth-costliest tornadic storm in U.S. history.
- Nebraska: The Cornhusker state recorded 53 tornadoes in 2021 and no deaths.
- Louisiana and Missouri: Another tie, Louisiana and Missouri both recorded 50 tornadoes. One person in Louisiana lost their life, while two Missouri residents died.
- Colorado: Rounding out the 2021 list of worst states for tornadoes is Colorado, with 48 confirmed twisters.
The states with the fewest tornadoes
While tornadoes occur in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., there are several states that typically experience minimal tornadic activity. These states recorded no tornadoes in 2021:
Additionally, these states recorded fewer than three tornadoes last year:
While these states record relatively few tornadoes on average, each season is different. Even states that aren’t considered to be high-risk for tornadoes can experience dangerous convective storms that spawn tornadoes and cause widespread property damage.
Which states are in Tornado Alley?
Tornado Alley is a nickname given to a region in the U.S. where tornadoes are common. Tornado Alley generally begins in the Southern plains and extends northward through the upper Midwest to the Canadian border. States commonly associated with Tornado Alley include Texas, Kansas and Nebraska.
However, Tornado Alley is not an official meteorological designation. It’s common for states outside of the central U.S. to experience tornadoes. The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) notes that tornado hotspots tend to move depending on the season. In the cooler parts of the year, the Southeast experiences more tornadoes than the rest of the country, but that shifts to the southern and central parts of the country in spring. The risk then moves again to the northern plains and Midwest in summer.
Does homeowners insurance cover tornadoes?
Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover tornado damage for the structure of your home, outbuildings and your personal belongings. Your policy will also likely cover damage from fallen trees that are blown onto your home during a storm.
As a result, you may not need to purchase a separate policy for tornado insurance coverage. However, every policy varies in its coverage, so reviewing your policy with your insurance professional for these protections can be a good idea. Your home insurance policy might not offer enough coverage if you live in one of the worst states for tornadoes. Additionally, every property carrier is different, so tornado damage could be excluded from your policy. In that case, you may need to seek out a separate policy to cover tornado damage.
In addition to heavy winds, the intense convective storms that spawn tornadoes often cause floods. Unlike tornado and wind damage, flood damage is not typically covered by homeowners insurance. In order to be protected by flood insurance, you will likely need to purchase a separate flood policy underwritten by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Flood coverage is also available through dozens of private insurers and many property insurers offer flood coverage as an endorsement on standard home policies.
Prepping your home for tornadoes
In addition to making sure your home insurance covers you in the event of a tornado, there are some things you can do before and after a storm to mitigate your risk to minimize damage. These tips can help you prepare for a natural disaster by physically safeguarding your home and belongings. If you live in an area where tornadoes are common, you may want to:
- Strengthen your garage by reinforcing it with vertical bracing.
- Reinforce your roof with hurricane clips.
- Secure your windows with plywood and clips.
- Remove branches and trees that are on the verge of breaking or are overhanging your roof.
- Keep important paper records in a secure location and in waterproof containers.
- Invest in a storm-proof safe room.
These preparations and safeguards can make an enormous difference should a disaster strike. If the worst does happen, having pictures of valuable belongings and the inside and outside of your home can be helpful if you need to file a property insurance claim. Preparing a detailed home inventory of your belongings could also be beneficial and should be stored in the cloud or on a flash drive for quick access after a storm.