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Where tornadoes strike

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About 2,000 tornadoes have formed over the skies of the WQAD viewing area in the past 60 years and some areas are more prone than others to seeing tornadoes.

Mid-May to mid-June is the peak time for severe weather in our area according to Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Terry Swails.  May is the undisputed leader with 33% of our twisers occurring during that month.

“Going back to 1950, there seems to be a pretty high frequency of tornadoes just west of the Quad Cities,” says Terry.

Some areas are more likely than others to experience a tornado.

Where tornadoes strike most

Based in historical data, the chances of seeing a tornado are greater in Iowa than in Illinois.  Six of every 10 tornadoes in the WQAD area occurred in Iowa.

Terry says the tornado “hot spot” in our area is a triangle that includes communities in Cedar and Muscatine counties.  The triangle points are Tipton, West Branch and West Liberty.  The center of that triangle is Springdale, Iowa.

“That would be my number-one spot for a tornado in this area,” Terry says.

Some Springdale residents say they’re so accustomed to the potential for severe weather that they have a bag ready to go in case the storm sirens sound.

“I’m surprised a lot of people are still here,” said Springdale resident October Davidson.

Terry says 35% of the tornadoes in our area between 1950 and 2010 happened in six Iowa counties.  Scott, Cedar and Johnson counties each had 20 tornadoes during that time period.  Muscatine County had 18, Clinton County had 17 and Washington County had 14.

Violent storms target Scott County

Although Springdale may be the hot spot for tornadoes in our region, the most violent and deadly storms seem pointed about 30 miles east of there in Maysville.

“It seems like whenever there’s bad weather, it always hits here the hardest,” said Maysville resident Jake Storjhann.  “You kind of just learn to deal with it, I guess.”

Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Terry Swails says violent tornadoes have historically been concentrated on a small area of western Scott County, Iowa.  Since 1950, there have been 11 EF3 or greater tornadoes confirmed within 25 miles of Maysville.

“I’m talking EF3s and I think there was one EF4, and those are the kinds of tornadoes we’re really concerned about because they produce the most deaths and damage and injuries,” said Terry.  “If any warning was issued, I’d take it pretty seriously if you’re in that portion of our viewing area.”

Tornadoes are most likely to strike between 3 and 8 p.m. when heating of the day peaks and atmospheric instability is greatest.  Since 1980, 70% of the region's tornadoes have struck between 3 and 8 p.m.

Even if you don’t live in one of these hot spots, Terry says everyone should keep an eye on the sky.

“We have not had a major tornado outbreak in eastern Iowa and western Illinois in many years, and we are long overdue,” said Terry.  “I think it’s just a matter of when.”

Check out our interactive map to see where tornadoes strike in our area - click any county to see where tornadoes strike:

***Want more?  Click here to view maps showing the paths of tornadoes that have struck our region.