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The Top Ten US Killer Tornadoes

April 28, 2011

The news yesterday was nothing short of staggering.

The death toll from severe storms that punished five Southern U.S. states has jumped to 178 after Alabama sharply raised its tally of lives lost. Alabama’s state emergency management agency said early Thursday it had confirmed 128 deaths, up from at least 61 earlier. Mississippi officials reported 32 dead in that state and Tennessee raised its report to six from one. Another 11 have been killed in Georgia and one in Virginia. The fierce storms Wednesday spawned tornadoes and winds that wiped out homes and businesses, forced a nuclear power plant to use backup generators and even prompted the evacuation of a National Weather Service office.’

So the question that many are asking this morning is how does this tornado outbreak, and the number of deaths, rank among other tornados.

Here is the answer.  There is a chart and numbers when link is clicked.

For instance the #1 tornado was the “Tri-State Tornado” and this is part of that story…

In Illinois, the devastation was at its worst. At Gorham, 34 people died as virtually all of the town was destroyed. Over half of the town’s population was either killed or injured. Seven of the deaths were at the school. At Murphysboro, there was the largest death toll, within a single city, in US history. The 234 deaths included at least 25 in three different schools. All of these schools were brick and stone structures, built with little or no reinforcement, and students were crushed under falling walls. Murphysboro losses totalled about $10,000,000. Another 69 people died in and near Desoto, and the 33 deaths at the school was the worst in US tornado history. Parrish was devastated, with 22 deaths, as was the northwest part of West Frankfort, with $800,000 damage. About 800 miners were 500 feet down in a mine when the tornado struck. They knew there had been a storm, but they had lost electrical power. The only way to get out, and find out how their families had fared, was to go up a narrow escapement. Most of the demolished homes were miner’s cottages, and many of the 127 dead and 450 injured were women and children. Also unprecedented was the rural death toll of 65 in Hamilton and White County. There were single deaths in three different rural White County schools. The normally weatherwise farmers were apparently unaware of what was bearing down on them. With such a great forward speed, and appearing as a boiling mass of clouds rolling along, rather than a widely visible funnel, the tornado gave these people too little time to react. Massive amounts of dust and debris also served to obscure the storm.

The number of deaths over time due to tornadoes have decreased with better forecasting and means of conveying weather bulletins to the public.  Why the high number of deaths yesterday is a mystery that will be looked into in the coming weeks.

The United States gets about 1000 recorded tornadoes every year. Today, only a few are killers, but that has not always been so. About 200 US tornadoes have killed 18 or more people. Of those, about 150 occurred in the 70 year period between 1879 and 1949. There have been about 45 tornadoes since 1950 that have killed 18 or more people. In the 1950s, there were 18 tornadoes that killed 18 or more people. In the 1960s, there were 12 tornadoes that killed 18 or more people. In the 1970s,there were 11 tornadoes that killed 18 or more people. And in the 1980s, there were only 2 tornadoes that killed more than 18 people. In spite of an ever-burgeoning population, death figures continue to go down as improved forecasting, detection, communications, and public awareness increase.

One Comment
  1. Barbara permalink
    May 24, 2011 8:25 AM

    I just saw in FOX News that this chart is not up to date. The disasterous tornado that devastated Joplin, MI is the new #9.

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