Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tornado Update: 2011 More Than Double Previous April Record, Highest Month of All Time, Highest Fatalities of Modern Warning Era

Video (click to play): Raw video of Hackleburg, Alabama destruction from WVTM, Channel 13, Birmingham

May 2 Update: The National Weather Service has designated the massive Tuscaloosa tornado as a strong EF-4 storm with winds up to 190 mph. The storm caused over 1000 injuries and at least 65 deaths. The path length was a very impressive 80.3 miles, and the damage width was 1.5 miles where it crossed highway I-65. The city of Tuscaloosa still reports 340 missing from the storm.

This storm was one of several strong to violent tornadoes produced by a supercell thunderstorm which began in Newton County, Mississippi at 2:54 pm and dissipated in Macon County, North Carolina around 10:18 pm CDT, covering a total distance of 380 miles in a little under 7.5 hours.

There are at least 2 other EF-4 tornado tracks in the Birmingham NWS office area. (Track map updated.)

May 1 Update: The total number of tornadoes for the April 26-28 event has been revised upward to 312, which is now more than double the previous single-event record. There were an estimated 266 tornadoes in the 24-hour period ending 8 am April 28, which is also a new single-day record.

The Hackleburg, Alabama tornado, previously designated EF-3+, has been confirmed as EF-5, the maximum tornado intensity. Winds were estimated at over 200 mph. The path length was over 25 miles in Marion County, continuing into the Tennessee Valley, with a damage width of 3/4 mile. There were at least 25 deaths from the storm. Several subdivisions, the Hackleburg High School and Wrangler Jeans plant were destroyed. A total of at least 100 structures were destroyed. Motor vehicles were moved 150-200 yards.

A report from the adjoining area serviced by the Huntsville, Alabama NWS office indicates that this tornado continued as an EF-4 into Franklin and Lawrence Counties with a path length of at least 39 miles and 41 fatalities. "Continuous significant devastation" was reported throughout the city of Phil Campbell, including a church completely destroyed with only the slab remaining. Significant devastation also occurred in the areas of Mt. Hope, Langtown, and extreme northwestern Morgan County.

Original post:
As the amazing April 2011 tornado statistics continue to be compiled, the records continue to fall:
  • The National Weather Service preliminary count of 288 tornadoes during the event from 8:00 am EDT April 26 to 8:00 am April 28 was nearly double the previous record event of 148 tornadoes on April 3-4, 1974.
  • The death toll of 344 is the largest for any tornado event in the modern warning era of radar and satellite imaging. It is the highest number killed in a 2-day period since the 454 deaths on April 5-6, 1936.
  • The 334 fatalities in a 24-hour period are the most in a single day since the 747 on March 18, 1925, which includes the infamous Tri-State Tornado.
  • The death count of at least 65 from the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado is the highest in a single storm since 80 people died on May 25, 1955 in Kansas.
  • The preliminary count of over 600 tornadoes this month is more than double the previous April record of 267 in 1974.
  • This also beats the previous all-time monthly record of 542 in May 2003.
Damage surveys are still ongoing, but the NWS has so far confirmed one EF-3 tornado in Alabama, as well as 4 EF-3+. There are also 2 EF-3+ tornadoes with surveys in progress. In Georgia, an EF-4 tornado has been confirmed in Catoosa County. [Update: This is only the 9th EF-4 tornado to have been reported in Georgia since 1950.] There were also 4 EF-3 tornadoes. The paths of those storms were in:
  • Dade and Walker Counties
  • Bartow, Cherokee, and Pickens Counties
  • Meriwether, Spalding, and Henry Counties
  • Pike, Lamar, Monroe, and Butts Counties
Images (click to enlarge): Preliminary and confirmed storm tracks in Alabama and Georgia from the tornado outbreak of April 27-28, 2011.

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