The secondary or “Fall” Severe Weather Season – Guest blog by Jacob Terrell

Normally during the latter part of autumn people spend their time thinking about the holidays and Christmas shopping. For schools it means final exams, Thanksgiving/Christmas vacation, elementary school holiday parties, and Christmas play’s from the drama department; but what about severe weather? Many people might answer that question with a response such as “Severe weather, this time of year? It’s the season for holidays, not tornadoes.” However the truth is late October through early to mid-December is considered the secondary tornado season for the United States.

Many areas that are particularly prone to severe weather usually do not have to worry about this secondary peak in tornado activity, including areas like the high plains, upper Midwest, and the northern parries; but statistics prove that the secondary season, especially in November can be rather active for severe weather in areas such as the mid-south, Tennessee valley, southern plains, mid-Atlantic states, and portions of the Ohio valley. As the transition from summer to winter takes place in late fall, winds along the jet stream can increase in strength. Combine that with rich moisture, instability and good upper air dynamics, it doesn’t take much to get a tornado outbreak going. This time of year can be hectic for schools but regardless it is also a time where just like spring, schools administrators need to heighten their level of alert.

Here is some alarming information about the fall tornado season:  the second most active month for tornadoes in Mississippi is November. Also many weather experts would likely agree that at least sometimes the fall tornado season yields tornado outbreaks that are more deadly and destructive than the traditional spring season. For example, the Veterans Day 2002 November tornado outbreak killed 36 people in 5 different states and has gone down in the record books as one of the largest severe weather events in United States history.

Unlike spring, tornado activity is much more sporadic in the fall season.  Occasionally, there is even little to no severe weather during the fall season. However, with all this in mind as November approaches, school administrators should review tornado procedures, and/or the severe weather section of the school’s emergency operations plan. A tornado drill might also be a good idea.

A recent high school graduate, Jacob Terrell is an intern with Safe Havens International.  Jacob has completed multiple FEMA online courses relating to school safety is a Skywarn severe weather spotter. Jacob hopes to pursue a career in the field of school safety.  During his internship, Jacob has been conducting research on active shooter situations, school tornado preparedness, school fire prevention and all-hazards school crisis planning.  While a student, Jacob has experienced two school fires and now desires to make schools safer for students and staff. Jacob welcomes reader questions, comments or concerns at

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.