Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Event Report

Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest Tornadoes

April 25-28, 2011

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Preliminary analysis places the death toll near 350 people for the entire outbreak, mostly across the state of Alabama. This surpasses the death toll and tornado counts of the April 1974 super outbreak, which had 148 tornadoes and 315 deaths associated with it. One of the EF-5 tornadoes of the outbreak occurred across northern Mississippi, near Smithville. The tornado had estimated winds of 205 mph (330 km/hr), destroyed 18 homes, and killed 14 people. This was the first EF-5 tornado since the tornado that struck Parkersburg, Iowa in February 2008. The second EF-5 tornado of the outbreak occurred across northern Alabama and southeastern Tennessee. The tornado had a continuous path length of 132 miles (212 km) and was up to 1.25 miles (2 km) wide at certain points. Thousands of homes and other structures were destroyed or heavily damaged. The number of fatalities and injuries were unknown. The most destructive tornado of the outbreak occurred across central Alabama, hitting the cities of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, and was deemed a strong EF-4. The violent tornado had winds of up to 190 mph (306 km/hr), a maximum path width of 1.5 miles (2.4 km), and was on the ground for approximately 80.3 miles (129 km). Preliminary estimates report there were over a thousand injuries and 65 fatalities with this single tornado. In Tuscaloosa alone, it is estimated that it will cost up to 100 million US dollars just to remove debris from the city. These numbers will likely be revised upwards, once the final surveys are completed. This tornado could potentially surpass the F-5 tornado which hit Moore, Oklahoma in May 1999 as the most expensive tornado to ever hit the United States. The supercell thunderstorm that spawned this tornado tracked over 380 miles (612 km) from Mississippi to North Carolina, spawning several tornadoes along its way. According to analysis by NOAA, this tornado was the deadliest tornado since May 25, 1955 when 80 people were killed by a tornado in Kansas.

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The outbreak has a whole also produced staggering fatality statistics. The April 26-28, 2011 period had the most people killed during a single tornado outbreak since 454 people were killed in the April 5-6, 1936 tornado outbreak. April 27, 2011 marks the deadliest tornado day since March 18, 1925 when 747 people were killed by tornadoes.

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Citing this information:

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2019).