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Super Tornado

I’m not sure I like those two words together: Super + Tornado. It doesn’t sit well…and with good reason.

From April 25-28, 2011 one of the largest, costliest and deadliest tornado outbreaks ever recorded took place in the Southern, Midwestern and Northeastern United States…leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake. It was deemed the “Super Outbreak of 2011”. Go figure, right?

How did this catastrophic event happen? Good question. Cold air sitting above Canada and the midwestern states met warm moist air pushing up from the Gulf of Mexico. Dry air moving in from Mexico and the southwestern United States then created a strong temperature gradient that increased the wind velocity in the jet stream. As the jet stream curved southward and then bent northward along the warm-air boundary, it generated shear lines (zones where there is a rapid change in wind velocity or direction). The lines of wind shear helped create swirling winds at ground level, which later developed into hundreds of tornadic vortices across a vast amount of land!

This was the largest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded with more than 300 occurring across 21 states. (Areas affected reached from Texas to New York to Southern Canada!) April 27 was the most active day, with a record 216 tornadoes touching down that day alone.

Of the states affected by the storms, Alabama fared the worst with more than 230 fatalities and roughly 2,200 injured. Several reports noted that multiple tornadoes measuring ½ -mile-wide struck the state and tracked through populated areas, flattening whole towns. (One of the tornadoes was believed to have stayed on the ground for 80 miles!) An incredible eleven EF4/EF5 tornadoes either touched down in or moved across some part of the state. That’s unheard of.

Immediately after the storms, Jeff Byard, an executive operations officer for Alabama Emergency Management, said he knew the scope of the damage from unfathomable. “It soon became very apparent that the state could not handle the emergency alone. It will go down in history as the worst outbreak of tornadoes in Alabama," Byard said.

This outbreak challenged and surpassed the records set by almost all previous tornado events. It resulted in roughly $12 billion in damages and left an estimated 340 people dead. The event killed more people than any tornado outbreak since 1936, when 454 people lost their lives.

The April 26–28 tornado outbreak followed a similar episode on April 14–16 that spawned approximately 155 confirmed tornadoes across the southern United States and killed some 40 people.

This was simply too many tornadoes. One is too many…hundreds is mind boggling.

Severe weather can be scary. Here at HLEW when the weather does have a chance of “turning” (tornado pun intended), we strive to get information to you as fast as we possibly can so you and your families can stay safe!

As always, thank you so much for hanging with us here during your busy week! Take care!

Article published on April 26th, 2023 by Laurel Governal

HLEW Weather Rewind

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