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Georgia weather: Which counties have recorded the most tornadoes?

OCTOBER 11 UPDATE: After flattening parts of Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend regions, Michael came into Georgia as a hurricane, exited as a tropical storm within 24 hours and left devastation and death in its wake. The AJC’s Ben Brasch, Johnny Edwards and Christian Boone, covering the storm’s path through our state, report the following:

The powerful storm claimed the life of an 11-year-old girl in Southwest Georgia, which appeared to have borne the brunt of Michael’s wrath.

Michael charged into Georgia as a Category 3 hurricane, the first storm of that strength to make a direct hit since 1898, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz.

It weakened as it churned in a northeast arc through the state’s largely rural midsection, downing trees and power lines in its path.

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10/10/2018 -- Albany, Georgia -- Back up generators power a few lights and power sockets in the gymnasium at New Birth Fellowship Church as shelter seekers await the end of Hurricane Michael in Albany, Wednesday, October 10, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM) (Alyssa Pointer)

To date, Georgia has recorded 14 tornadoes in 2018. The state that’s recorded the most tornadoes for the year so far? Iowa, with 84. Louisiana, reporting 50 tornadoes for the year, is third nationally.

Fulton is Georgia’s top tornado-prone county with the March 19 EF2 tornado near Campbellton marking the 33rd tornado to hit the area since 1950. The next two most twister-prone counties -- Worth and Colquitt -- have logged 32 tornadoes apiece over the past 68-plus years. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration along with AJC staff research, since 1950, Chatham and Cobb, with 31 tornadoes each, are tied for third place among Georgia’s 159 counties in total tornadoes recorded. 

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. Bartow and Cherokee, north of Atlanta, have respectively seen 26 and 28 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. 31 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.)

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