Blog Post

10 of the worst U.S. tornadoes

With severe storms and long-track tornadoes predicted for Alabama and Georgia today, I thought I’d post something about deadly tornadoes to remind everyone to be safe out there. After writing “A History of Alabama’s Deadliest Tornadoes” and covering the aftermath of the Super Dixie Outbreak on April 27, 2011, I always take warnings seriously and I hope all of you do, too.

Here are the worst tornado outbreaks in the nation ranked by severity by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (The agency notes rankings are “subjective due to increased warning lead time and fatalities, damage to increased property value.” They are not ranked by fatalities and I disagree with the order of some of these). Click here to see the full document.

1. Super Tornado Outbreak 

  • April 3-4, 1974
  • 148 tornadoes across 13 states
  • 315 deaths and 6,142 injuries
  • From 5 to 7 ranked F5, highest in intensity (statistics vary)
  • $600 million in damages

2. Super Dixie Outbreak

  • April 27, 2011
  • 287 tornadoes across the southeast
  • 354 deaths, thousands of injuries
  • 3 EF5 tornadoes
  • $1-billion-plus in damages

3. Enigma Outbreak

  • February 19, 1884
  • Southeastern U.S.
  • 60 tornadoes
  • Est. 420 deaths (Because these reports were taken decades later from newspaper accounts and the amount of damage, researchers have estimated deaths from this tornado between 182 and 1,200 people. This is why it’s called The Enigma Outbreak. I wrote about it in “Forgotten Tales of Alabama.”)
  • $3 million in damage

4. Palm Sunday Outbreak

  • April 11-12, 1965 in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa
  • 51 tornadoes
  • 260 deaths and 3,148 injuries
  • $280 million-plus in damages

5. Tri-State Outbreak

  • March 18, 1925 in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Kansas.
  • 740 deaths (695 from one tornado that tracked through three states) and more than 2,000 injuries
  • $18 million-plus in damages

6. Tupelo-Gainesville Outbreak

  • April 5-6, 1936 in Mississippi and Georgia
  • 17 tornadoes
  • 446 deaths and more than 2.000 injuries
  • $18 million in damages

7. St. Louis Outbreak

  • May 27, 1896 in eastern MO and southern IL
  • 18 tornadoes
  • 306 deaths
  • $15 million in damages

8. Arkansas-Tennessee Outbreak

  • March 21-22, 1952
  • 28 tornadoes
  • 204 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries
  • $15 million in damages

(**Known as the first time the NWS issued a tornado watch)

9. Deep South Outbreak

  • March 21-22, 1932, across South, centered on Alabama
  • 33 tornadoes
  • 334 deaths (268 in Alabama)
  • Damages $5 million

10. Louisiana-Mississippi Outbreak

  • April 24-25, 1908, in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia
  • 18 tornadoes
  • 310 deaths
  • $1 million in damages

 

 

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