Some metro Atlanta counties outrank Middle and South Georgia twister hotspots

UPDATED APRIL 29, 2022: A stunning 37 tornadoes have hit Georgia since the start of the year, with only four being recorded prior to the April 5-7 event. The day with the most activity? April 5, when a slew of twisters rampaged through the middle and southern parts of the state. The strongest of those, an EF4-rated tornado in Bryan County, northeast of Pembroke, killed one person and injured at least 12.

In total, 21 tornadoes touched down April 5, starting in Chattahoochee County in the west, moving to Dooly, Bibb and Houston counties mid-state and then hammering a path to the east through Laurens, Treutlen and Emanuel counties. To the southeast, Early and Miller counties were hit; Brooks and Lowndes counties near the Florida line also saw a weak, but long tornado push through.

The U.S. has recorded 434 confirmed tornadoes so far in 2022, 13 of those causing fatalities. Most of the twisters were relatively weak, rating either EF0-EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Only two have been rated EF4: the March 5 Winterset, Iowa, tornado, killing six, and the Bryan County tornado here.

Worth is Georgia’s top tornado-prone county, with 38 tornadoes logged since 1950. Fulton is a close second with 37. Early County, in the far southwestern corner of the state, stands at third with 35. The next two most twister-prone counties -- Colquitt and Laurens -- have seen 34 and 33 tornadoes each, respectively, over the past 70 years. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration along with AJC staff research, here’s how the metro Atlanta counties aside from Fulton stack up in tornado counts: Cobb, 29; Henry, 21; DeKalb and Clayton, 13; Gwinnett, 12.

Take a look at the map below, detailing NOAA’s count of every tornado recorded in Georgia since 1950, and see how many twisters have hit the state to date. This map is updated whenever a confirmed tornado is recorded by the National Weather Service.

Tornado totals are fairly high in counties considered part of the greater metro Atlanta area. Cherokee and Hall, north of Atlanta, have each seen 27 tornadoes since 1950.

If you live in west and deep southwest Georgia, you’re likely to experience a tornado at some point. But if you make your home in east Georgia, there’s much less reason to worry. Want to pretty much never see a tornado? Move to Taliaferro County, which has no recorded tornadoes (yet).

Another tornado hotbed? The Savannah area. 32 tornadoes have hit Chatham County since 1950.

HOW ARE TORNADOES RATED?

The National Weather Service rates tornadoes by the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF), named for the creator of the original Fujita Scale, Ted Fujita. Here are the EF ratings from lowest to highest:

  • EF 0: Winds estimated at 65-85 mph (usually light damage, including damage to gutters and siding)
  • EF 1: 86-110 mph (moderate damage, including broken windows, severely stripped roofs, severe damage to mobile homes)
  • EF 2: 111-135 mph (considerable damage, including roofs torn off homes, complete destruction of mobile homes, large trees uprooted.)
  • EF 3: 136-165 mph (severe damage, including damage to large buildings, debarked trees.)
  • EF 4: 166-200 mph (devastating damage, including the leveling of some well-constructed homes.)
  • EF 5: Greater than 200 mph (incredible damage, including homes swept off their foundations and significant damage to high rises.)