According to data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, during January, there were 45 preliminary tornado reports. This is above the 1991-2020 average of 39 tornadoes for the month of January. Six days during the month had tornadoes while the vast majority of the tornadoes (39, or 86%) occurred on January 8 and 9.
January had one tornado outbreak that occurred across numerous southeastern states on January 8 and 9. These tornadoes impacted coastal Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. There were also isolated tornadoes in Texas and Louisiana. In total, these 39 tornadoes included: 13 EF-0s, 15 EF-1s, six EF-2s and one EF-3. There were also several EF-U (unknown) tornadoes, with minimal, unrated impact.
The strongest tornado was an EF-3 that caused significant damage around Panama City Beach, Florida, after an intense waterspout moved onshore. This tornado caused heavy damage to numerous coastal homes, apartments, vehicles and businesses. This tornado also damaged homes at the Bay Point Golf Club before crossing St. Andrews Bay where it weakened. There were no reported injuries or fatalities with this tornado.
Another impactful tornado was an EF-2 that caused significant damage in the Calhoun and Early counties of Georgia. This tornado had a track length of approximately 22 miles and damaged manufactured homes, vegetation, infrastructure and agriculture assets. There were no reported injuries or fatalities with this tornado.
For the entire January 8-9 event, two tornado-related fatalities were confirmed from this outbreak, both in manufactured homes. One occurred in the community of Cottonwood in southeast Alabama, and the other in the town of Claremont located northwest of Charlotte, NC. A total of 14 injuries was also confirmed from these tornadoes.
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
- Mccarthy, Daniel & Schaefer, Joseph. (2004). Tornado trends over the past thirty years. paper presented at 14th Conference on Applied Meteorology.