The 10 worst and best states for tornadoes
There were 1,075 tornadoes reported in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Illinois topped the list as the top five worst states for tornadoes. These states recorded the most tornadic activity in 2020, ranging from 127 in Mississippi to 71 in Illinois, as confirmed by the National Weather Service.
Where do tornadoes occur? These destructive and deadly storms can happen anywhere in the U.S. but are most often concentrated in the Midwest and Deep South. The central part of the country has rightfully earned the nickname “Tornado Alley” due to its high risk of twisters, but tornadic activity is also common throughout the Gulf Coast and Southeast U.S. regions. Because these storms can cause catastrophic damage to your home and vehicles, understanding your risk and having adequate property and auto insurance coverage can help you prepare.
The top 10 worst states for tornadoes
Of the top 10 states with the most tornadoes in 2020, only one — Texas — is officially a part of Tornado Alley. As experienced in 2020, tornadic storms can develop and cause destruction just about anywhere in the U.S., not just in a specific region of 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?
- Mississippi: Though it is not in Tornado Alley, Mississippi had the most confirmed tornadoes in 2020, with 127 twisters touching down.
- Texas: Texas recorded 102 tornadoes in 2020 and is the only Tornado Alley state on the “top 10” list for last year. The worst tornado in Texas since 1900 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 2020 tornado season spawned 78 tornadoes in Alabama. The costliest tornado damage on record in the U.S. occurred in Tuscaloosa in April 2011, causing $8.5 billion in property losses (2020 dollars).
- Georgia: Georgia reported 75 confirmed tornadoes in 2020. Four of the 10 costliest tornadoes in U.S. history have affected the Peach State, according to the Triple-I.
- Illinois: 71 tornadoes touched down in the Land of Lincoln in 2020.
- Minnesota: The Land of 10,000 Lakes saw 69 tornadoes in 2020.
- Florida: Florida can experience tornadoes year-round due its warm, humid climate and saw 65 twisters in 2020. The state averages nearly 60 twisters a year.
- South Carolina: South Carolina recorded 57 confirmed tornadoes in 2020.
- Louisiana: Louisiana reported 55 tornadoes for 2020. Between August 2019 and August 2020, 87 counties and zone areas in the state had a tornado-related event.
- North Carolina: North Carolina rounds out the top 10 worst states for tornadoes in 2020 with 54 confirmed touchdowns.
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 10 states saw the fewest twisters in 2020:
While these states record relatively few tornadoes on average, each season is different. As the 2020 season illustrated, 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 begins in the Southern plains and extends northward through the upper Midwest to the Canadian border.
According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), Tornado Alley states include:
Tornadoes can and do occur outside of these states. Additionally, Tornado Alley is simply a nickname. Some states, like Alabama and Mississippi, are not included in Tornado Alley but often see widespread tornadic activity.
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.
Frequently asked questions
Does tornado insurance cover my car?
Comprehensive coverage, offered by your auto insurance carrier, includes coverage to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged from a tornado’s winds or rain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover your car, even if your vehicle is parked in your garage or driveway when it is damaged. According to the Triple-I, about 80% of U.S. drivers carry this optional coverage which costs about $150 a year on average.
What is the best home insurance company?
The best home insurance company will vary depending on your individual needs and rating factors. Shopping around and comparing home insurance quotes from multiple carriers before purchasing a policy might help you find the right fit for your situation. A licensed insurance professional can help you through the process of obtaining quotes and securing coverage.
How much home insurance do I need?
Experts typically recommend that homeowners purchase enough home insurance to cover the entire dwelling (the actual structure of your home) if a tornado or other covered peril destroys it. You may also want to consider personal property coverage. Other coverage types that could be helpful include other structures coverage, medical payments coverage and water backup coverage. A licensed insurance professional can help you choose coverage for your specific needs.
Does home insurance cover temporary housing?
Many home insurance companies will cover additional living expenses while you rebuild or repair your home after a tornado or other covered loss, but policies vary from provider to provider. Check your existing policy or talk to your agent to see if you have this coverage, which is often called loss of use.