November tornadoes: rare or common?

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – November seems like the time of year that severe weather should be the least of concerns, but that isn't the case. Sunday's severe weather outbreak in the Midwest spawned a preliminary count of 52 tornadoes (45 have been confirmed so far- that number may very well rise). Despite popular opinion and what many media outlets say, severe weather and tornadoes are not rare in the late fall.

While the spring and early summer are the prime times for severe weather and tornadoes, mid-to-late October and the month of November are often considered a second "tornado season" for many areas of the country, the south and Midwest in particular. During this time of year, strong fronts and upper air systems make their way across the U.S. When plentiful warm and moist air accompanies these systems, the atmosphere becomes unstable, yielding severe thunderstorms, and often times, tornadoes.

The worst November tornado outbreak on record was November 21-23, 1992. During those three days, 105 confirmed tornadoes carved paths of destruction through 13 states from Texas to the Carolinas. This outbreak spawned sixF4 tornadoes- one in the eastern suburbs of Houston, Texas; two in Mississippi; one in Indiana that made its way into northern Kentucky; and two in Georgia, one in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Later, two F3 tornadoes struck the areas of Hillsborough and then Barclaysville and Elizabeth City.

South Carolina is no stranger to November tornadoes, either. In fact, after March, April, May and September, November, on average, has the fifth highest number of tornadoes in the state. On November 16, 2011, four tornadoes were confirmed in the state, with the strongest being an EF2 in York County. November 14-15, 2008 brought three confirmed tornadoes; the strongest was an EF2 in Dillon County. An astonishing 30 tornadoes struck the state on November 7, 1995. An F3 tornado caused major damage in Saluda County on November 22, 1992.

November 7, 1995 brought one of South Carolina's strongest tornadoes on record- an F4 in Marion County. The tornado destroyed one mobile home and completely leveled a church sanctuary. The church bell was found more than 400 yards east of the church. The tornado's initial touchdown was near Penderboro, and the tornado went on to cause roughly $1 million in damage.

While most November tornadoes aren't strong enough to be considered 'violent' (EF4 and EF5), violent tornadoes do occur in November. So far, two EF4 tornadoes have been confirmed from Sunday's outbreak in the Midwest, and from 1950 to 2012, 20 F/EF4 tornadoes have been recorded in the month of November across the U.S. Excluding those violent tornadoes from Sunday, North Carolina has had one F/EF4 tornado during November, along with South Carolina having one, two in Georgia, four in Alabama, four in Mississippi, one in Louisiana, two in Texas, one in Oklahoma, one in Missouri, two in Kentucky (one of which crossed into Indiana), and one in Ohio.

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