The Deadliest US Tornado Outbreaks
The Top Ten Most Deadly Tornadoes In US History
Note: The 2011 Tornado Outbreak has been confirmed as of this writing (4/29/2011) to have killed 319, making it the highest death toll since 1932, when 322 were killed in Alabama. An April 1974 outbreak killed 325 people in 11 states. These however, are from multiple storms.The deadliest tornado remains the March 18, 1925 twister which killed 695 people on its 219 mile path of destruction. A total of 747 people were killed in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana when all tornadoes in that storm are accounted for.
What follows is a list of the deadliest single twisters.
The Tri State Tornado
Missouri, Illinois and Indiana
March 18, 1925
Death Toll: 625
The worst tornado in US history began in southeastern Missouri, crossed through southern Illinois, and then turned into southwestern Indiana. The 625 deaths more than doubled the second deadliest tornado in US history. More than 2,000 were injured. Property damage was assessed at $16.5 million, which would be $1.7 billion in today’s dollars. The tornado left a 219 mile track, which is the longest ever recorded. It rated an F5 on the Fujita scale.
The Great Natchez Tornado
May 7, 1840
Death Toll: 317
Forming southwest of Natchez, the tornado moved north along the Mississippi River. When it struck Natchez, it destroyed dozens of buildings, killing at least 48. Another 269 were killed as the tornado destroyed numerous flatboats on the river. The actual number of casualties, however, may have been much higher, because in pre-Civil War Mississippi, slave deaths would not necessarily have been recorded.
The St. Louis – East St. Louis Tornado
St. Louis, Missouri and East St. Louis, Illinois
May 27, 1896
Death Toll: 255
One of the few tornados to strike a major city, this tornado touched down in St. Louis, leaving a mile-wide path of destruction through homes and commercial buildings. It then crossed the Mississippi River and blew through East. St. Louis, Illinois. The official death toll is 255, but some have estimated that the death toll may be as high as 400, since it is impossible to know how many died in boats on the Mississippi River. When adjusted for inflation, the tornado would be the costliest in US history, with an estimated price tag of $2.9 billion.
The Tupelo Tornado
April 5, 1936
Death Toll: 233
Part of a storm system that also spawned the deadly Gainsville tornado, the Tupelo storm cut its way through the residential areas of Tupelo, Mississippi. One noted survivor was one-year-old Elvis Presley.
The Gainsville Tornado
April 6, 1936
Death Toll: 203
Following the Tupelo storm of the previous night (see number 4 above), the Gainsville Tornado destroyed several major buildings in Gainsville, Georgia, including 70 at the Cooper Pants Factory.
Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas
April 9, 1947
Death Toll: 181
This tornado—or perhaps series of tornados—is named after the three towns that suffered the greatest percentage of casualties. Seventeen were killed in Glazier, Kansas, 51 in Higgins Texas, and 107 in Woodward, Oklahoma. The tornado is thoguht to have been as much as two miles wide. More than 100 city blocks were destroyed in Woodward. In addition the the 181 killed, another 970 were injured.
April 24, 1908
Death Toll: 143
Leaving only seven houses intact in Purvis, Mississippi, the storm killed 143 and injured 770.
Joplin, Missouri Tornado
May 23, 2011
Death Toll: 117
New Richmond Tornado
June 12, 1899
Death Toll: 117
Strong enough to blow a 3,000 pound safe a block away, the storm began as a waterspout on lake St. Croix.
June 8, 1953
Death Toll: 115
Beginning just north of Flushing, this tornado destroyed the north side of Flint before breakign up near Lapeer. It travelled 46 miles in an hour and a half. The same storm system spawned a tornado in Worcester, Massachusetts a day later.
May 11, 1953
Death Toll: 114
The deadliest twister to ever hit Texas, the Waco storm damaged 600 businesses, 850 homes and 2,000 cars.