The Outside World, In and Around Duluth

Tornadoes in Duluth?

No, probably not.

But not impossible, either.

I don’t actually think much about the possibility. But when NOAA put out a cool new graphic mapping the frequency and intensity of tornadoes in the US, I thought about the axiom I’ve heard – that Lake Superior protects Duluth from tornadoes, and I wondered if it held water, historically speaking.

NOAA reviewed the previous 56 years of tornadoes touching down, it looks as if the North Shore has in fact, been spared of too many touch downs:

Click to enlarge. Image via Data courtesy National Weather Service.

Isn’t that a cool graphic? Makes you wonder what’s happening, meteorologically speaking, that splits the country in half. Mountains, sure. Same thing over along the Appalachians. But what do the mountains do exactly? How do they affect the air? Hmm, a question for another day.

But what about us? Of course, NOAA isn’t particularly concerned about Duluth. But we are, so let’s zoom in a little closer:

Interesting. As I look at this, I see maybe a couple close to Duluth, and neither of those particularly large (heavier line indicates stronger tornado).

A little more searching shows that, since 1950, Duluth has had 9 tornadoes at level F2 or higher:

Data from

And of course, who remembers the details of the F-Scale? Not me – here was the original:

  • F0 (Gale)
  • F1 (Weak)
  • F2 (Strong)
  • F3 (Severe)
  • F4 (Devastating)
  • F5 (Incredible)

I love the adjectives.

Slightly less exciting, and perhaps more understandable:

And to really geek out on the metrics of a tornado, you can visit the Enhanced Fujita scale site:

So do we get tornadoes? I suppose we could. But in the same way that really good winter storms seem to have a tendency to miss us with depressing regularity, so too do tornadoes.

Kind of fun to do a quick little research on something that strikes your fancy, isn’t it?


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