The Ten Most Tornado-Prone Counties in America
When it comes to the topic of tornadoes, Oklahoma is universally known around the world for producing some of the biggest, including the last F6 ever measured... but it'd probably surprise most Okies that the Sooner State doesn't even crack the top five of the most tornado-prone counties in America.
It's worth noting that Oklahoma does have the most counties on the full expanded list, 15 counties out of the total 35 nationwide. Still, here's how the top ten stacks up.
10. Pinellas County, Florida
While we may not associate tornadoes with the subtropical sandy beaches of Florida, the Sunshine State gets quite a few twisters each year in the form of (mostly) waterspouts which are technically tornadoes all the same. The worst tornado in 30 years hit Pinellas County just three years ago, measured as an EF2.
9. Miami-Dade County, Florida
Just like Pinellas County above, Miami-Dade County gets a lot of waterspouts throughout the year on the Southern tip of Florida. When very warm Caribbean currents collide with cooler fronts swing out of the gulf, magic happens off the coast.
8. Oklahoma County, Oklahoma
If you're from Oklahoma, you're probably saying "Shenanigans" or "I thought it'd be higher," but you can't argue hard data and numbers. The main difference between Oklahoma twisters and those found elsewhere on this list is the size and intensity of nature's fury. No state grows tornadoes like Oklahoma does.
7. Hillsborough County, Florida
Twisters and waterspouts that manage to live past Pinellas County and the expanse that is Tampa Bay usually end up in Hillsborough County. The same EF2 that made headlines in Pinellas County during 2020 also made headlines across Tampa Bay. While on the small side for Oklahoma standards, it was enough to garner a "Large and extremely dangerous" label from the local media there.
6. Caddo County, Oklahoma
Forgive the scale, I had to zoom in enough to get some of the small towns to show up. Fortunately, looking at the tornado history for Caddo County, it's a similar story for twisters in this part of Oklahoma. Caddo hasn't had a significant tornado since 1999, and never a storm rated above EF4 designation--most likely due to the lack of stuff to destroy in this sparsely populated area just outside the OKC metro.
5. Polk County, Florida
Florida's only landlocked county on this list seems to catch plenty of leftover storm action as mesocyclones traverse the area between the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. In fact, it was the same storm that hit Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in 2020 that made headlines across the state, though the intensity came down to EF1 status by the time it rolled across the swamp.
4. Palm Beach County, Florida
I know it seems Florida is getting most of the tornado attention, but that's how statistics work. Like in the same way your 3rd grader is an artist in the same sense that Picasso was an artist. It's not about "fair," it's about numbers, and Palm Beach County gets a pretty high number of twisters each year. Mostly EF0-EF1, but a lot of them nonetheless.
3. Adams County, Colorado
Since the plains states severe weather has to all come over the Rocky Mountains at some point in the range, it's only natural Colorado would rank somewhere on this list. While Adams County doesn't get many big tornadoes throughout the average year, it does get the third most of all counties in America. With a pretty major population area on the Western border (Denver Metro), it's surprising how low the damage totals are each year.
2. Harris County, Texas
Texas' most populated county also gets the second-most tornadoes each year on average. Almost three per year since 1950. Some years see more, others see less, but that average is shockingly high. Fortunately, most tornadic events in this area happen in January and February when Spring springs early on the Carcinogenic Coast, which means intensity remains rather low-to-mid, recording only one EF4 in history since records have been kept.
1. Weld County, Colorado
In terms of tornadoes, Weld County gets the most each year and throughout the last 75-ish years of record keeping. While it's not within what we know as Tornado Alley, Weld County has spawned an incredible 296 tornadoes as of April, 2023. That's 4 per year since 1950. Of course, Weld County is roughly 2.5 times the size of the average county, so more land equals more tornadoes.
It's not all shenanigans.
While it's easy to blame twister fame on something as trivial as land size, the top ten list does change quite drastically when you level the playing field with more stats.
For instance, when you measure tornadoes per 100 square miles, Oklahoma has a solid showing with six Sooner State counties dominating the top ten list. You can read about it in more detail here.