April's tornado outbreaks the two largest in history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 02:54 PM GMT die 05o May, anno 2011

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The largest tornado outbreak and greatest one-day total for tornadoes in history occurred during last week's historic super tornado outbreak, said NOAA in a press release on Wednesday. They estimate 190 tornadoes touched down during the 24-hour period from 8:00 a.m. EDT April 27 to 8:00 a.m. EDT April 28 (132 tornadoes have already been confirmed, with several weeks of damage surveys still to come.) NOAA's estimate for the number of tornadoes during the three-day April 25 - 28, 2011 Super Outbreak, is 305. This is nearly double the previous record for a multi-day tornado outbreak of 155 tornadoes, set just two weeks previously during the April 14 - 16, 2011 outbreak. There were tornado outbreaks in May 2004 (385 tornadoes) and May 2003 (401 tornadoes) that had more tornadoes, but these outbreaks occurred over an eight-day and eleven-day period, respectively, and were not due to a single storm system. Prior to April 2011, the most tornadoes in a 24-hour period, and in an outbreak lasting less than four days, was the 148 tornadoes in the Super Outbreak of April 3 - 4, 1974.



Figure 1. A truly frightening radar image: multiple hook echoes from at least ten supercell thunderstorms cover Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee during the height of the April 27, 2011 Super Outbreak. A multi-hour animation is available here.



Figure 2. Preliminary tornado tracks from NWS survets for the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak. Image credit: NWS Southern Region.

The death toll for the epic outbreak continues to fluctuate, and has decreased substantially to 318. The count decreased in Alabama from 250 to 236 due to some of the victims being counted twice. There are still hundreds of people missing from the tornado, and search teams have not yet made it to all of the towns ravaged by the tornadoes. The estimated 318 deaths makes this is the 4th or 5th deadliest tornado outbreak on record. Only the great Tri-State tornado outbreak of 1925 (747 killed), the 1936 Tupelo-Gainsville tornado outbreak (454 killed), and a 1932 outbreak (332 killed) had more deaths.

Other notable facts from the great April 25 -28, 2011 tornado outbreak
The Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado is likely to be the most expensive tornado of all-time, and damage from the April 25 - 28 outbreak is the most expensive tornado outbreak in history. Insured damages have been rated at $2 - $5 billion, and uninsured losses will be several billion more. The previous most expensive tornado outbreak in history was the $3.5 billion price tag, in 2005 dollars, of the April 3 - 4, 1974 Super Outbreak .

The Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado caused at least 65 fatalities. This tornado had a maximum width of 1.5 miles and a track 80 miles long. These are the most fatalities from a single tornado in the United States since May 25, 1955, when 80 people were killed in a tornado in southern Kansas with 75 of those deaths in Udall, Kansas.

NOAA estimates there were more than 600 tornadoes during the month of April 2011, shattering previous records. The previous April tornado record was 267, set in 1974. April has averaged just 161 tornadoes over the past decade. The previous record number of tornadoes during any month was 542, set in May 2003. So far there have been an estimated 881 tornadoes in 2011. The annual tornado record is 1,817, set in 2004. May is historically the most active month for tornadoes.

So far, 2011 is the 13th deadliest year for tornadoes on record with 369, and the deadliest year since the advent of Doppler radar in late 1980s and 1990s. The deadliest year on record is 1925 with 794.

The outbreak had fourteen violent tornadoes--two EF-5s (the Smithville, MS tornado, and the Hackleburg, AL tornado), and twelve EF-4s. The Super Outbreak of 1974 had far more violent tornadoes, with an unprecedented seven F5s and 23 F4s.

National Weather Service forecast offices provided plenty of warning for the tornadoes, issuing life-saving tornado warnings with an average lead-time of 24 minutes. Warnings were in effect for more than 90 percent of the tornadoes.


Figure 3. Youtube video of the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado of April 27, 2011, as it hit Birmingham.

The most violent tornado of the outbreak: the 210-mph Hackleburg tornado
The most violent and longest-lived tornado of the great April 26 - 28, 2011 outbreak was the Hackleburg tornado. This tornado initially touched down in Northwest Alabama near the Mississippi border, then roared to the northeast for 132.1 miles into Tennessee, causing EF-5 damage at many locations along its path. The most significant damage occurred in the town of Phil Campbell, wind in excess of 200 mph sucked up a 25-foot section of pavement and scattered it up to 1/3 mile away. Tornadoes that can suck up pavement are a rare breed, earning this twister its EF-5 rating. The tornado intensified even further as it hit the town of Oak Grove, where winds estimated at 210 mph over a swath more than one mile wide completely destroyed many buildings, tossed a Corvette 641 feet, and tossed another large car so far that it has not yet been found.

A list of the pages at each National Weather Service forecast office on the tornadoes from the April 25 - 28 outbreak that affected their area (posted by wunderground member beell, thanks!):

Birmingham, AL
Huntsville, AL
Mobile, AL
Little Rock, AR
Tallahasse, FL
Atlanta, GA
Louisville, KY
Paducah, KY
Shreveport, LA
Jackson, MS
Albany, NY
Binghamton, NY
Wilmington, OH
State College, PA
Columbia, SC
Greenville, SC
Memphis, TN
Morristown, TN
Nashville, TN
Dallas, TX
Blacksburg, VA
Sterling, VA
Wakefield, VA

All-time Mississippi River flood records fall
This week, for the first time in 74 years, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to intentionally destroy the Birds Point levee on the west bank of the Mississippi River, just downstream from the river's confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois. The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois continues to fall this morning, thanks to this emergency operation, with a level two feet below the all-time peak of 61.8' set on Monday night. The destruction of the Birds Point levee also helped slow the rise of the Mississippi River just south of its confluence with the Ohio River, but the river is still rising slowly, and has now set all-time records at New Madrid, Missouri, Tiptonville, Tennessee, and Caruthersville, Missouri--a 70-mile stretch of river downstream from Cairo. The massive pulse of flood waters will continue downstream for the next 2 - 3 weeks, setting all-time flood records at many locations. The National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi has created a nice "May 2011 Mississippi River Flood" web page that details the current stages, expected crests, and previous record crests along the river's path. Currently, the Mississippi is expected to reach its 2nd highest level on record at Memphis on May 11, beat the all-time record at Vicksburg, Mississippi by 1.3' on May 20, and smash the all-time record at Natchez, Mississippi by six feet on May 22. I'll be saying much more about this unprecedented Mississippi flood on Friday, and throughout the month of May.


Figure 4. The Portlight relief trailer being loaded in Summerville, SC, in preparation for a journey to the tornado disaster zone.

Helping out tornado victims
For those who want to lend a helping hand to those impacted by the widespread destruction this month's severe weather has brought, stop by the portlight.org blog. They have been very active in this disaster, bringing aid to many of the victims of this great tragedy.

Jeff Masters

Camp Creek Greeneville, TN Tornado Damage Part 2 (rivertramper)
Camp Creek Greeneville, TN Tornado Damage Part 2

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328. Skyepony (Mod)
05:33 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
ESPI is now -1.30..nearly guaranteeing we'll see some El Niño conditions develop, maybe as early as sometime in June. No confidence if it would last long enough to be an official El Niño event at this point. With the atmospheric lag the season would be feeling more neutral conditions, like 2004. Though expecting the El Niño to be stronger so the tail end of the season would have more fish storms.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38217
327. Jax82
04:59 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
in case you didnt know....NEW BLOG
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
326. Skyepony (Mod)
04:35 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Weather is looking questionable for the Atlas Launch. Window opens at 6:14pmGMT.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38217
325. beell
04:30 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting emcf30:
NEW ORLEANS /17/ 15.0 +0.5 15.0 15.4 15.8 16.2 16.6 19.5 5/24A A.5/11A
/ /LEVEES PROTECT CITY OF NEW ORLEANS TO 20 FT STAGE.

Only 6" below the levee system protection height in New Orleans. That is cutting it kinda close. Hope the crest heights numbers don't go higher like they have in other places.


If it comes to that, opening the Morganza Spillway will keep the crest at New Orleans at/below 17'. At the expense of more than just a few folks living near the southern end.

Similiar to opening the New Madrid Floodway, we will offer up another compromise to Old Man River.



Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 143 Comments: 16734
324. fireflymom
04:10 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
It will disappear -evaporate- or go around where we are, it is just a teaser.
Quoting hydrus:
Your rain is coming R.E...

Member Since: June 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 588
323. RitaEvac
03:52 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
I've had it, I'm praying for a tropical storm to rain for days over us. It'll just have to flood, it's outta control.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
322. RitaEvac
03:47 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Hydrus I'm bone dry on the coast!
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
321. hydrus
03:45 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting RitaEvac:
Going back up, damn it

WTI Crude Oil
$101.31
The price of gas is goin to kill me...Again.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21435
320. hydrus
03:44 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting RitaEvac:
And is it ever gonna frickin rain in TX?
Your rain is coming R.E...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21435
319. RitaEvac
03:43 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011


Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
318. hydrus
03:42 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting caribbeantracker01:
This is going to be an interesting year for the Caribbean. Especially late July, all of August, and the first half of September.jmo
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21435
317. RitaEvac
03:41 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
And is it ever gonna frickin rain in TX?
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
316. RitaEvac
03:37 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Going back up, damn it

WTI Crude Oil
$101.31
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
315. caribbeantracker01
03:35 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting hydrus:
Eastern Caribbean looks interesting in a week or so...
Gfs showing same thing
Member Since: May 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 556
314. JRRP
03:24 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5990
313. hydrus
03:11 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Eastern Caribbean looks interesting in a week or so...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21435
311. jeffs713
02:47 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting caribbeantracker01:

i am aware lol
it is just that with the mjo taking an upward motion soon before june i am interested to hear wat will take place yh and i notice that another round off sevre weather is on schedule to occur


gotcha.

While MJO is coming to our area, I don't think its been terribly coherent lately, meaning its not going to have a huge impact. Also, the ITCZ is a bit far south for anything popping, and fronts haven't been getting stalled out in the GOM or just off the coast, which is a big point of genesis for early-season storms. We could get a monsoon-type system going, but those take a few days to get a pulse, so we would have plenty of warning.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5886
310. Jax82
02:43 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
309. caribbeantracker01
02:38 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Link

must watch!!
Member Since: May 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 556
308. caribbeantracker01
02:35 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting jeffs713:
301. First, caps = bad. stop shouting.

Secondly, hurricane season is still slightly less than a month out... many ppl aren't putting out updates daily, since not much is changing, and we have historic floods happening on the Mississippi River atm.

i am aware lol
it is just that with the mjo taking an upward motion soon before june i am interested to hear wat will take place yh and i notice that another round off sevre weather is on schedule to occur
Member Since: May 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 556
307. emcf30
02:32 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
NEW ORLEANS /17/ 15.0 +0.5 15.0 15.4 15.8 16.2 16.6 19.5 5/24A A.5/11A
/ /LEVEES PROTECT CITY OF NEW ORLEANS TO 20 FT STAGE.

Only 6" below the levee system protection height in New Orleans. That is cutting it kinda close. Hope the crest heights numbers don't go higher like they have in other places.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
306. Orcasystems
02:23 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Complete Update





Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
304. MTWX
02:19 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting pottery:

We keep a 400 gal plastic tank, in the shade, for drinking only (ice too).
For everything else, we use it straight from the tanks, including cooking.
From time to time I throw in some chlorine bleach. But when I do, the wife complains....
If we have a long dry spell, I cover the top of the cisterns/tanks for the first couple of hours of rain, to make sure that most of the bird-droppings and stuff dont get into the tanks.
We rotate the usage and clean them out every couple of years, and I have a pretty complex manifold system so I can move water from any tank to any tank.

Nice!! I need to set something like that up on my place!
Member Since: July 20, 2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1393
303. Skyepony (Mod)
02:12 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Vermont flooded in 1927 too..

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has declared a state of emergency to help respond to flooding across the state. The declaration will allow the state to use the National Guard to help respond to record high floodwaters. Areas around Lake Champlain are especially hard hit by the spring flooding fed by near record snow and heavy spring rains. Shumlin says conditions have worsened to the point where the state needs equipment and personnel from the Nation Guard. He says roads that have been under water for days are less stable and more hazardous. Vermont Emergency Management says reaching Grand Isle County, most of which is made up of islands in Lake Champlain, could become more difficult due to high water.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38217
302. jeffs713
02:07 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
301. First, caps = bad. stop shouting.

Secondly, hurricane season is still slightly less than a month out... many ppl aren't putting out updates daily, since not much is changing, and we have historic floods happening on the Mississippi River atm.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5886
301. caribbeantracker01
02:01 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
ANYONE HAS A BLOG UPDATE II CAN READ
ABOUT HURRICANE SEASON? RECENT ONE HOW ABOUT TODAY OR YESTERDAY?////
Member Since: May 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 556
300. Jax82
01:58 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting aquak9:


hi Rasta...doubt it's gonna be heavy. BUT, the cat was laying around with it's paws tucked under, so I shouldn't be so surprised at the chance of precip.

sadly tho, today will be followed by no rain.


50% of rain today just turned to 100% for me, it just downpoured here off 295. The storms strengthened a little before rolling in. A few claps of thunder. Looks like it will clear out and it be a nice weekend.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
299. cmahan
01:54 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting KoritheMan:

It is highly likely that this particular eschatological prophecy, like all previous ones, will end up being incorrect in the end.


Another Great Disappointment in the making, I expect.
Member Since: September 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 155
298. aquak9
01:48 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting CanesfanatUT:


Waiting with baited breath.

Appreciate updates anyone can provide on here - you guys are an awesome source of info and quick on the trigger.


You should explore other blogs on this site, besides just DocMasters.

This blog Link is an excellent resource for following what's going on. Plenty of good discussion and info as it becomes available.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 168 Comments: 26081
297. gordydunnot
01:46 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Now you guys have gone an done it. The one day a year I play gulf is for a memorial fund raiser for a coach. This year it is on May 21. Oh well I hope I can get in my 18 before all hell breaks loose. Having visions of the minister in the original caddy shack, just my luck.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3113
296. Skyepony (Mod)
01:41 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
With La Niña lingering in the atmosphere..it's down right scary to have the sea ice like that.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38217
295. CanesfanatUT
01:41 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting thebrownpelican:
The big question: Will they or won't they open the Morganza Spillway above Baton Rouge? The Bonnet Carre Spillway opens Monday.


Waiting with baited breath.

Appreciate updates anyone can provide on here - you guys are an awesome source of info and quick on the trigger.
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
294. Xyrus2000
01:32 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting ktymisty:
I've been watching arctic sea ice for a few years and I thought I'd share this before I leave for the evening

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/NEWIMAGES /arctic.seaice.color.000.png

That bright area showing 70% coverage near the north pole is pretty rare this time of year. In fact I don't think I've see it like that in May.


Well, considering the mass melts we've had the previous years, a lot of the ice has been greatly reduced in thickness and/or is not multi-year ice. It doesn't take a lot to melt it or move it.

There's a good chance that this year may break the 2007 low. We'll have to see what the weather does.
Member Since: October 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1499
293. aquak9
01:31 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting RastaSteve:


Some heavy rain heading right into JAX. You should get wet soon.


hi Rasta...doubt it's gonna be heavy. BUT, the cat was laying around with it's paws tucked under, so I shouldn't be so surprised at the chance of precip.

sadly tho, today will be followed by no rain.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 168 Comments: 26081
292. RitaEvac
01:22 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Just received my FEMA flood insurance renewal in the mail. I currently pay $313 a year, or I can pay $343 this year.

$313 covers $150,000 building $60,000 contents
$343 covers $200,000 building $80,000 contents

Ticks me off, but for $30 more it looks to be worth it.

FYI, I'm outside of floodplain too
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
290. caribbeantracker01
01:18 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Link

tropical storm tomas what i notice where ever the last storm of the season forms ............lol this is opinion the season tends to take this track lol however look at the force of it it reminded me a lil bit of hurricane ivan in 2004 in grenada that is
Member Since: May 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 556
289. beell
01:08 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting RastaSteve:


Yeah wasn't sure what P451 was looking at as the moisture keeps getting surpressed to the south over Mexico. Even the severe potential over W TX only has marginal moisture at best to work with. The storms that do pop will have a hail and wind potential not tornadoes. A bigger threat for severe wx will come into play next week. Anyways it's looking promising for rain here in C FL this afternoon as we already have thunderstorms coming ashore on the west coast of FL.


We should see the dryline try to get active each day this week. Big temp/dewpoint spreads may limit the tornado threat.

Best chance comes Thursday or more likely, Friday over the central plains as the trough finally leaves the Rockies and swings out over KS, NE, MO as a guess. Too far out in time to get too excited.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 143 Comments: 16734
288. aquak9
01:04 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
good morning friends and fiends worldwide.

Would sure like to see some of that EPAC moisture roll on up into TX.

surprisingly overcast here in NE Fla, like a single squished gnat on the computer screen.

Yeah, where is Ike?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 168 Comments: 26081
287. emcf30
01:03 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
285. caribbeantracker01
01:00 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Link
Hurricane ike !!!!!!!!!!! just waiting for the season.
Member Since: May 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 556
284. beell
12:56 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting jeffs713:

The moisture is welcome here in SE TX... I just know it won't break the cap.


Don't see much to worry about on moisture. Most of Texas will be under a strong mid-level ridge all next week.

Hot n' Dry...
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 143 Comments: 16734
283. jeffs713
12:44 PM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
Quoting P451:
East Pacific primed and ready for it's "opening season date". More worrisome is the moisture fetch being rapidly drawn up towards the TX/OK region from here.

EPAC WV, 6 hours, ending 1015AM ET:




Day 3 SPC Outlook:


The moisture is welcome here in SE TX... I just know it won't break the cap.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5886
282. emcf30
11:51 AM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011

Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
279. Patrap
11:09 AM GMT die 06o May, anno 2011
We dont look to Africa till mid July as the tracks and development occur much closer in June-July..

The Western Caribbean and Gom are the early breeding grounds.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128766

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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.