According to data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, during March, there were 292 preliminary tornado reports. This is more than triple the 1991-2010 average of 80 tornadoes for the month of March, and is the highest count of tornadoes on record for the month of March. This places March 2022 ahead of March 2017 and March 2021, which had 192 and 191 tornadoes, respectively. The preliminary count of 292 March 2022 tornadoes will decrease, as the confirmed tornado count is finalized, but it is likely that this new March tornado record will remain intact. A majority of the March 2022 tornadoes occurred during three separate tornado outbreaks at the beginning and at the end of the month. These days of highest tornado frequency are summarized in the following paragraphs.
On March 5-6, there were 55 tornadoes that were clustered across Iowa, Illinois and Arkansas. This included a confirmed EF4 tornado in Winterset, Iowa that caused six fatalities and injured five. This tornado carved a nearly 70 mile path through Madison, Warren, Polk, and Jasper Counties. There was also one EF-3 and five EF-2 tornadoes during this outbreak, in addition to nearly two dozen combined EF-1 and EF-0 tornadoes. There were no additional fatalities from these tornadoes.
On March 21-22, there were 108 tornadoes that impacted several states most focused across Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama. This large outbreak of tornadoes included an EF3 tornado that caused significant damage to homes, business, schools and infrastructure in Jacksboro, Texas. Other tornadoes caused damage near College Station, and near the Austin and Houston metro regions. On March 22, as the system moved east there was another EF-3 tornado that caused damage across the Arabi community of the New Orleans metro region, east of the Lower Ninth Ward. This tornado caused damage to homes, businesses, vehicles and infrastructure. As a high-end EF-3 tornado with 160 mph winds this tornado was the strongest on record to hit the New Orleans metropolitan area. This multi-day outbreak of tornadoes caused two fatalities and several injuries.
On March 30, there was another outbreak of 83 tornadoes focused across the Gulf Coast states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. There were three EF-3, nine EF-2 and more than 75 EF-1 and EF-0 tornadoes during March 30. Washington County, Arkansas experienced one of the EF-3 tornadoes that damaged an elementary school, homes, businesses and buildings at the Springdale Municipal Airport. Another EF-3 tornado impacted Washington County, FL with winds of 150 mph. It caused heavy damage to homes, vehicles, infrastructure. The tornado also caused two fatalities and several injuries near Alford, Florida.
Did You Know?
Final monthly tornado counts are typically less than the preliminary count. This can be due to some phenomena being inaccurately reported as tornadic activity or a single tornado being reported multiple times. Tornado accounts are reported to the local National Weather Service forecast offices who are responsible for going into the field and verifying each tornado reported. This process often takes several months to complete. Once all reports have been investigated, the final count is published by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
The Tornado Monthly Climate Reports are written using the preliminary numbers because the final data is not available at the time of production. Historically, for every 100 preliminary tornado reports, at least 65 tornadoes are confirmed. An error bar is depicted on the tornado count graphic representing this uncertainty in the preliminary tornado count.
The following U.S. studies performed by SPC meteorologists offer deeper context and discussion regarding the frequency and distribution of tornado intensity climatologies:
- Edwards, R., H. E. Brooks, and H. Cohn, 2021: Changes in tornado climatology accompanying the Enhanced Fujita scale. J. Appl. Meteor. Climatol., 60, 1465-1482, DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-21-0058.1.
- Mccarthy, Daniel & Schaefer, Joseph. (2004). Tornado trends over the past thirty years. paper presented at 14th Conference on Applied Meteorology.