Tornado outbreak of January 16–18, 2017
Date of tornado outbreak: January 16–18, 2017
Duration1: 46 hours
Maximum rated tornado2: EF3 tornado
Tornadoes caused: 135
Total Damages: $132,329,360
Total Fatalities: 11
Areas Affected: Midwestern and Southeastern United States

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see wikipedia:Enhanced Fujita Scale

The January 16–18, 2017 tornado outbreak took place across the Mississippi River Valley and portions of the Great Plains; and was the largest tornado outbreak on record during January, edging out the previous record of 127 tornadoes in the tornado outbreak of January 21-23, 1999. Over the course of roughly two days, 135 tornadoes touched down across the region, resulting in widespread damage. Eleven people were killed by the tornadoes.

Meteorological synopsis

On January 16, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issued a High risk of severe weather across much of central and eastern Arkansas, southwestern Tennessee, northeastern Louisiana, and much of northern and western Mississippi (the latter of which was affected by a tornado outbreak just less than two weeks prior). The organization warned of the potential for a widespread severe weather outbreak, including several long-tracked and intense tornadoes. The meteorological setup unfolded as a broad upper-level trough, with its axis across the Central United States, rapidly amplified in conjunction with a strong jet streak across the southern Rockies. Substantial cooling in the mid layers of the atmosphere—coupled with the sharpening trough allowed for strong divergence to overspread the highest risk area. At the surface, a deepening area of low pressure initially centered near the Texas–Oklahoma border early on January 16 deepened and accelerated eastward, reaching the Arkansas–Mississippi border during the overnight hours. A dry line extended southward across eastern Oklahoma into northeastern Texas, providing increased mechanisms for rising air as it combined with a cold front and pushed eastward into Arkansas.

As the upper-level trough rapidly intensified, 500mb winds increased to 70–80 mph (110–130 km/h) and 850mb winds topped 70 mph (110 km/h) across the High risk area. The combination of speed shear and adequate directional shear led to a favorable environment for rotating thunderstorms. A capping inversion, qualified by cold and dry air aloft, initially prevented the formation of thunderstorms and instead allowed substantial surface heating. Surface-based CAPE values of 1500–2000 j/kg and most unstable CAPE values of 1000–2000 j/kg became prevalent across the broad warm sector. Low-level moisture transported northward from the Gulf of Mexico resulted in dew points in the low- to mid-60s °F by the afternoon hours. With continually strengthening wind fields, the capping inversion steadily weakened, and several tornadic supercells formed across Arkansas. In addition to the tornado outbreak, steep 850–500mb lapse rates contributed to a favorable environment for large hail and widespread damaging winds.

Confirmed tornadoes

January 16 event

List of confirmed tornadoes - Monday, January 16, 2017
F# Location County Time (CDT) Path length Max width Damage

January 17 event

List of confirmed tornadoes - Tuesday, January 17, 2017
F# Location County Time (CDT) Path length Max width Damage

January 18 event

List of confirmed tornadoes - Wednesday, January 18, 2017
F# Location County Time (CDT) Path length Max width Damage

Significant tornadoes

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