Weather Trivia: Do Tornadoes Only Strike the US?

Tornado Alley

As it turns out, despite some popular misconceptions, tornadoes aren’t a uniquely American phenomenon. Many other countries have recorded tornadoes touching down, though few of them get anywhere close to the numbers you see in the US. Let’s take a look at some non-US countries that have had notable brushes with tornadoes!


Canada comes in as the second-highest country in terms of annual tornado touchdowns. This is unsurprising, given Canada’s close proximity to the US. After all, the conditions required to create tornadoes (land that is sandwiched by dry air to one side and moist air to the other) are similar across North America, from Tornado Alley up into Canada.

Notably, the US sees over 1,000 tornado touchdowns per year, so Canada’s roughly 100 or so barely ever catch headlines. That being said, there are some parts of Southern Canada where a tornado can be a serious threat to watch out for.

South Africa

South Africa’s Boreal Summer, which occurs when the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing winter, can give rise to some powerful tornadoes. On average, the region sees less annual tornadoes than the US, but the ones they do see are almost always very intense.

Notably, in December 1998, a large tornado touched down in the town of Umtata and nearly killed Nelson Mandela. The former president of South Africa laid down in the floor of the pharmacy his entourage was trapped in and his bodyguards piled onto him. This quick thinking saved the humanitarian leader’s life!


The deadliest tornado ever recorded on Earth occurred in Bangladesh. While the country isn’t known for its high frequency of tornadoes, the 1989 tornado was a strange outlier: huge, powerful and out of season. It struck in April, touching down in a very populated region where the construction quality of the homes was somewhat lackluster.

The resulting wanton damage to property and, worse, human lives, was astonishing. Nearly 1,300 people were killed, while another 12,000 were injured. Tragically, the structural damage was so great that 80,000 people were left homeless as a result of the tornado. To this day, experts still discuss what made the 1989 Bangladeshi tornado such a dangerous force, and the factors that went into making it so deadly.

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Jeremy Liu
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Jeremy Liu

Jeremy Liu has always been fascinated by extreme weather—but he prefers to write about the world’s deadliest storms from the safety and comfort of his home office. He’s much less likely to get hit with a flying cow that way. (And yes, Jeremy’s favorite movie is Twister.)

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Jeremy Liu Written by Jeremy Liu