ILLINOIS – If it seems like you’re preparing for tornado threats a little more than usual lately, there’s some truth to that, at least if you live in Illinois.

According to the National Weather Service, Illinois is leading the nation in tornadoes this year. Eighty-six tornadoes have already rolled through the Prairie State in 2023, nearly double the state’s average of 50 twisters per year.

According to the National Weather Service, Illinois is leading the nation in tornadoes this year. (NWS Severe Weather Report)

The National Weather Service reports, as of Saturday, Illinois has braced through more than double the number of tornadoes in any other state this year aside from Alabama (80) and Georgia (45).

Per NWS, Illinois also leads every state in severe weather reports (466) this year aside from Texas. That number represents the total of confirmed tornadoes, plus hail and wind damage reports.

Illinois was off to a quick start this year, with the National Weather Service office in Lincoln confirming 9 tornadoes from the storms that rolled Central Illinois in on Jan. 3. In Maroa, a silo and neighborhood fencing was damaged by a reported tornado. Meteorologist Jacob Dickey was in the Stormtracker to get video of the structure as it was hit.

February brought more tornadoes to Central Illinois, with the National Weather Service confirming that three tornadoes touched down in Ford and Champaign Counties on Feb. 27. The two Champaign County tornadoes marked the first confirmed tornado in Champaign County in the month of February since modern records began in 1950.

The tornadic activity didn’t slow down in March, with 14 tornadoes confirmed in Central Illinois on March 31 as severe weather rolled through the entire state. The strongest tornado of the event in Central Illinois was the EF-3 that began south of Sainte Marie in Jasper County.

As the tornado approached Robinson Municipal Airport, it took out hangars as well as an additional airport building. Around 30 buildings in total were damaged in Crawford County. The tornado was believed to have continued until the Wabash River, onto Sullivan, Ind. In total, the tornado was estimated to have traveled 28 miles and peaked at wind speeds of 155 mph, causing 8 injuries and 3 fatalities. 

Further north, one person was killed and 28 were injured at the Apollo Theater in Belvidere, Illinois, after severe weather caused a roof collapse, also on March 31. 

Courtesy: IEMA

To this point, Illinois has more tornadoes this year than the four primary states of the colloquially-coined tornado alley region (Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas) combined. Data from the National Weather Service indicates tornadoes are happening more frequently in states east of that specific region, including dozens in neighboring states Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky.

Recent trends may seem to support one recent report published by climate and atmospheric science research teams for NPJ, indicating that tornado frequency has increased east of the conventional tornado alley in recent years.

Another study from the University of Illinois suggests that twisters are most frequent in the state between April and June from 3-7 p.m.

Make sure to stay up-to-date with WCIA 3’s Severe Weather Center.