In the Midwest, we are no stranger to severe weather, be it the extreme cold we just experienced a month ago, or nearly record heat we suffered through last summer. But the warmest February on record for the Tri-States is a subtle reminder that tornado season is coming.

Typically lasting from March through June, tornado season is a particularly unnerving time for the Midwest, as weather can change from sunny to ominous in just a matter of hours. The website Roof Gnome has taken a look at some of the most at-risk counties when it comes to tornado outbreaks. As the data reveals, six of the top 20 counties that are the most vulnerable for tornadoes are in Illinois.

Photo Credit: trendobjects
Photo Credit: trendobjects
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Roof Gnome's Methodology:

Roof Gnome used FEMA to compile their data, and also factored expected annual loss from tornadic activity to make their list:

We compared nearly 950 U.S. counties with a relatively moderate to very high tornado risk according to FEMA. More specifically, we looked at tornado risk and expected annual loss from tornadoes. We also considered the average age of homes and whether states have adopted construction codes for tornado resilience, among 5 total metrics. - per Roof Gnome

Key Findings:

Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas counties dominated the top 20 regions most vulnerable to tornadoes, per Roof Gnome. It's also worth noting that several of the counties on this list, potentially contrary to some assumptions, are densely populated with high volumes of people and expensive infrastructure. I have a feeling when people think tornadoes, they think of them impacting predominately rural communities. This data proves that to be false.

Photo Credit: kevron2001
Photo Credit: kevron2001
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  • With large populations and high-cost infrastructure, counties with major cities have the highest total expected annual loss from tornadoes. 7 Texas counties — such as Harris (No. 2), Dallas (No. 16), and Bexar (No. 23) — finished among the 10 with the costliest expected annual loss from tornadoes. These are home to the Texas Triangle.
  • Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois stand out with high Exacerbating Factors. These states have many older homes and have not adopted current building standards from the International Residential Code and International Building Code. Building codes — like stronger roofs, safe rooms, and impact-resistant windows — help increase structural resilience against extreme weather events.

Several Illinois Counties At Risk Each and Every Year:

Cook County, IL was ranked as the #1 most vulnerable county for tornadoes. Cook County is the county that houses Chicago, which balloons its population to over five million people. Just outside the top is DuPage County (my former county!) at #7. DuPage is home to nearly a million people and some of the wealthiest suburbs in the entire state of Illinois.

Further down the list are Lake County (#9), Will County (#17), Madison County (#18), and Kane County (#20).

Photo Credit: mdesigner125
Photo Credit: mdesigner125
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20 Most Vulnerable Counties for Tornado Damage
RankCountyRankCounty
1Cook County, IL11Wyandotte County, KS
2Harris County, TX12Wayne County, MI
3Collin County, TX13Oakland County, MI
4St. Louis City, MO14Denver County, CO
5Jackson County, MO15Tarrant County, TX
6Sedgwick County, KS16Dallas County, TX
7DuPage County, IL17Will County, IL
8Milwaukee County, WI18Madison County, IL
9Lake County, IL19Jefferson County, KY
10St. Louis County, MO20Kane County, IL

View the results of Roof Gnome's study on their website.

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Gallery Credit: KATELYN LEBOFF