Local Weather History: When Do We Normally See Our First & Last Severe T'Storm or Tornado Watch During the Year?

Going back to 1972, here is a list of the date of our first & last severe weather watch issuance & what the average date of the first & last is.

Posted: Jun 21, 2021 10:27 PM
Updated: Jun 24, 2021 1:41 AM

Severe weather watches (Severe T'Storm or Tornado) are issued by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center out of Norman, Oklahoma, but are coordinated by local National Weather Service Forecast offices.  Those offices serving our area are:

1.  Indianapolis:  Warren, Tippecanoe, Carroll, Howard, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery counties

2.  Northern Indiana (North Webster):  Pulaski, White, Fulton, Cass, Miami counties

3.  Chicago:  Newton, Jasper, Benton

These offices issue the Severe T'Storm & Tornado Warnings for these counties.

The word "tornado" was banned from all forecasts or bulletins until 1938, but they were still rarely used after '38.

The first Tornado Warning was issued for Tinker Air Force Base (in Oklahoma) on March 20, 1948.  The Severe Weather Warning Center was established in 1951 responsible for "bulletins" for severe weather at Air Force sites, but not for civilian areas.

Media pushed government to develop the bulletins (precursor to watches) for civilian use.

A trial Warning Center for civilian use was established in 1952 with 15 forecasters to issue these "bulletins" with the first one issued March 17, 1952 for tornadoes in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana & Arkansas.  36 tornadoes occurred with 208 deaths in that outbreak.

Following this outbreak the Weather Bureau Army Navy Analysis Center was established by May of 1952 as a permanent branch.

The center was moved from D.C. to Kansas City in 1954 after media pressure to move the office to more of a severe weather-prone area.  1955 saw the first primitive convective outlook issued, followed by the first completely public severe storm outlook in 1958.

In 1965 "bulletins" were changed to "watches".

Watches are issued when conditions are suitable for severe weather to form in such a more concentrated, longer-lived & vigorous extent that such a designation is warranted.  An overall area is denoted for the risk over a period of many hours, though severe weather may have greater concentration in one part of the watch box compared to another side.  If tornadoes are an increased probability, then the watch would be a Tornado Watch.  T'Storm Watches can have tornadoes, but the risk is not of such a degree to warrant the "Tornado Watch" wording & Severe T'Storm Watch designation is used.

Watch issuance follows our severe weather climatology here, however, it should be said that sometimes some of our bigger events have evolved without a watch issued or a watch issued very late.  Others are exactly right, while others still are watches that do not see as much happening.  Some watches are issued in winter, others fall, many in spring & summer.

In this research, I dug through NOAA archives & the NOAA archives via Iowa State University Mesonet, then WLFI film archives.

Although watches go back to 1965, the only solid, consistent archive of watches I could find began in early 1972. 

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Examples of watches:

Tornado Watches April 11, 1965:

Tornado Watches April 3, 1974:

May 4, 1977 Tornado Watches:

April 20, 2004 Tornado Watch:

August 20, 2020 Severe T'Storm Watch:

Latest First Severe Watch:  June 18, 2021

Earliest First Severe Watch:  January 2, 2006

Earliest Last Severe Watch:  July 28, 1974; July 28, 1999

Latest Last Severe Watch:  December 23, 2015

Average Date of First Severe Weather Watch:  April 10 

Average Date of Last Severe Weather Watch:  October 9

Year      Date of First Watch & Type of Watch     Date of Last Watch & Type of Watch

1972      Apr. 6 (Tornado)                  Sept. 28 (T’Storm)

1973      Apr. 16 (T’Storm)                  Nov. 15 (Tornado)

1974      January 26 (Tornado)                  July 28 (T’Storm)

1975      January 10 (Tornado)                   Nov. 10 (Tornado)

1976      Feb. 16 (Tornado)                     Sept. 26 (Tornado)

1977      Apr. 4 (Tornado)                    Sept. 30 (T’Storm)

1978      Apr. 6 (T’Storm)                    Nov. 17 (Tornado)

1979      May 11 (T’Storm)                    Oct. 1 (T’Storm)

1980      Feb. 21 (T’Storm)                    Sept. 22 (Tornado)

1981      Apr. 4 (T’Storm)                    Oct. 17 (T’Storm)

1982     March 30 (T’Storm)                     Nov. 1 (T’Storm)

1983     May 1 (T’Storm)                      Sept. 6 (T’Storm)

1984     June 12 (Tornado)                     Nov. 1 (T’Storm)

1985     Mar. 28 (T’Storm)                    Nov. 19 (T’Storm)

1986     Mar. 10 (Tornado)                   Sept. 26 (T’Storm)

1987     Apr. 14 (Tornado)                     July 29 (T’Storm)

1988     May 8 (T’Storm)                     Nov. 16 (T’Storm)

1989     March 17 (T’Storm)                    Nov. 15 (T’Storm)

1990     May 15 (T’Storm)                    Oct. 3 (Tornado

1991     March 27 (Tornado)                  Nov. 30 (Tornado)

1992      June 17 (Tornado)                  Nov. 22 (Tornado)

1993      Apr. 15 (T’Storm)                  Aug. 29 (T’Storm)

1994      Apr. 15 (Tornado)                  Nov. 27 (Tornado)

1995      May 13 (Tornado)                  Aug. 9 (T’Storm)

1996      Apr. 19 (Tornado)                  Oct. 29 (T’Storm)

1997      March 28 (Tornado)                  Aug. 16 (T’Storm)

1998      Apr. 8 (Tornado)                   Dec. 6 (T’Storm)

1999      Feb. 11 (Tornado)                  July 28 (T’Storm) (No NWS Watch for Sept. 28 Supercells)

2000      Apr. 20 (Tornado)                  Nov. 9 (Tornado)

2001      Apr. 6 (T’Storm)                   Oct. 24 (Tornado)

2002      Apr. 24 (Tornado)                  Nov. 10 (Tornado)

2003      Mar. 20 (T’Storm)                    Sept. 26 (Tornado)

2004      Apr. 20 (Tornado)                    Oct. 13 (Tornado)

2005      March 30 (Tornado)                   Nov. 15 (Tornado)

2006      Jan. 2 (T’Storm                    Oct. 4 (T’Storm)

2007      Mar. 1 (Tornado)                 Oct. 18 (Tornado)

2008      Jan. 7 (Tornado)                Sept. 8 (T’Storm)

2009      March 8 (Tornado)                Aug. 19 (Tornado)

2010      Apr. 7 (Tornado)                Oct. 26 (Tornado)

2011      Apr. 19 (Tornado)               Nov. 14 (Tornado)

2012      March 2 (T’Storm)               Sept. 7 (T’Storm)

2013      Apr. 10 (T’Storm)              Nov. 17 (Tornado)

2014      Feb. 20 (Tornado)                Oct. 13 (Tornado)

2015      Apr. 8 (T’Storm)                  Dec. 23 (Tornado)

2016      May 6 (T’Storm)                  Nov. 18 (T’Storm)

2017      Feb. 28 (Tornado)                  Nov. 18 (Tornado)

2018      May 2 (T’Storm)                  Oct. 6 (T’Storm)

2019      March 14 (Tornado)                  Aug. 20 (T’Storm)

2020      March 28 (T’Storm)                  Aug. 10 (T’Storm)

2021      June 18 (T’Storm)

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Intense heat and humidity for the weekend with t'storm chances
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