□ Accurate tornado statistics can be difficult to find. Recording techniques were not standardized before the weather radar age, so information on tornadoes that occurred before 1970 is often unreliable. Furthermore, lists of the deadliest and longest tracked tornadoes in world history are easy to find and dominated by 19th and early-20th century events.
To level the playing field and promote the dissemination of credible information, all of the following records cover tornadoes that occurred after 1970. Click each link in the index below to jump to a specific section. This page will undoubtably go through several edits and expand as more notable tornado records are uncovered.
-IVa. The Highest Altitude Violent Tornado
-IVb. The Deadliest and Most Intense Anticyclonic Tornado Ever Recorded
-IVc. The Deadliest Hurricane Spawned Tornado
-IVd. The Highest Tornado Fatality Rate
-IVe. The Most Fatalities in a Single Building
-IVf. The Most Fatalities in a Single Mobile Home Park
-IVg. The Fastest Tornado Movement Ever Recorded Using Photogrammetry
-IVh. The Heaviest Object Ever Lifted by a Tornado
Va. Graph of Tornadoes Causing 10+ and 20+ Fatalities by Decade
Vb. Graph of the Deadliest Tornadoes by Decade
1. 158 fatalities – Joplin, Missouri – May 22, 2011
□ A violent EF5 tornado rapidly intensified as it entered heavily populated sections of Joplin. The storm holds the post-1970 record for the most fatalities in frame homes (approximately 70) and the most fatalities in commercial buildings (approximately 20). The commercial deaths do not include the large number of fatalities at medical facilities, churches and private organizations.
2. 72 fatalities – Hackleburg/Phil Campbell, Alabama – April 27, 2011
□ One of the most impressive tornadic events in history carved a 132-mile path of devastation through largely rural areas of northern Alabama. The EF5 tornado had an exceptionally high fatality to injury ratio. The storm holds the post-1970 record for the longest swath of EF5 damage (including approximately 40 consecutive miles at EF5 intensity).
3. 64 fatalities – Tuscaloosa/Concord, Alabama – April 27, 2011
□ Borderline EF5 tornado caused more than 40 deaths in Tuscaloosa. Extremely well-covered by local news agencies and photographers. Caused high-end EF4 damage from Tuscaloosa to the suburbs of Birmingham.
4. ≈47 fatalities – Pugh City, Mississippi – February 21, 1971
□ A fast-moving F4 tornado nearly wiped out the town of Pugh City, killing 22 residents. Dozens of small homes were swept completely away. Official death toll of 58 is likely the result of a tornado family.
5. 42 fatalities – Wichita Falls, Texas – April 10, 1979
□ A large tornado left a wide swath of marginal F4 damage in Wichita Falls. The historic storm holds the post-1970 record for the greatest number of fatalities in vehicles (25). The majority of the deaths in automobiles were people attempting to flee the storm.
6. ≈41 fatalities – Inverness, Mississippi – February 21, 1971
□ A fast-moving F5 tornado passed directly through the town of Inverness, killing approximately 20 residents. Most of the deaths were in poorly built homes that were obliterated.
7. 36 fatalities – Bridge Creek/Moore, Oklahoma – May 3, 1999
□ Violent F5 tornado killed 13 people in rural areas while at maximum intensity. The storm then caused another 23 deaths as it tracked through the Oklahoma City suburbs. Holds record for the highest doppler velocity ever measured – approximately 302mph.
8a. 32 fatalities – Oak Grove, Alabama – April 8, 1998
□ Marginal F5 tornado caused a high number of fatalities as it chewed through small towns near Birmingham after dark. The worst damage was confined to several small streaks of intense devastation.
8b. 32 fatalities – Xenia, Ohio – April 3, 1974
□ Infamous multi-vortex tornado became the deadliest and most damaging single storm in the 1974 Super Outbreak. Brief film of the tornado captured by a high school student was broadcast on news networks across the world.
9. 31 fatalities – Brandenburg, Kentucky – April 3, 1974
□ Violent F5 tornado swept away well-constructed houses in the town of Brandenburg. The storm struck far fewer homes than the Xenia tornado yet caused a similar death toll due to its extreme intensity.
10. 30 fatalities – Saragosa, Texas – May 22, 1987
□ Short lived multi-vortex tornado touched down and rapidly intensified as it passed over a small town in southwest Texas. Most of the fatalities occurred in the destruction of a crowded church.
-Due to the high number of tornado families that have been officially recorded as a single storm, an accurate list is difficult to compile. Tornadoes thought to have been two or more separate storms are not included. This list will undoubtably go through various edits.
1. 149 miles – Yazoo City, Mississippi – April 24, 2010
□ A large, often obscured tornado sped through central Mississippi, killing 10 people in and near Yazoo City. The majority of the damage path was through sparsely populated forestland.
2. 132 miles – Hackleburg/Phil Campbell, Alabama to TN – April 27, 2011
□ Violent EF5 tornado travelled across nearly all of northern Alabama, causing 72 deaths before crossing the Tennessee border and continuing for an additional ten miles through Franklin County. The storm left strong tornado damage (EF3+) over more than 110 miles (NWS Survey).
3a. 128 miles – Brandon, Mississippi – November 21, 1992
□ Violent, rain-wrapped tornado killed 12 near Jackson around midnight. Four of the deaths occurred when a large, two-story brick home in the Easthaven subdivision was completely destroyed.
3b. 128 miles – Cordova, Alabama – April 27, 2011
□ Fast-moving tornado killed 13 people in Alabama. While officially rated an EF4, the tornado left severe ground scouring in unpopulated areas and hurled a vehicle nearly one mile.
4. 124 miles – Raleigh, Mississippi to AL – April 27, 2011
□ A Lesser know violent tornado during the 2011 Super Outbreak killed 7 in Mississippi and Alabama. Formed farther south than most of the tornadoes on April 27 and left a quarter-mile wide swath of fallen trees through a forest reserve.
5. 122 miles – Clinton, Arkansas – February 5, 2008
□ A fast-moving and long duration EF4 tornado ripped through largely rural areas of Arkansas. The 13 fatalities were spread out over a 30 mile area beginning in Pope County.
-Due to their rapidly shifting nature, it is difficult to ascertain the forward speed of a tornado over a specified time period. Decaying tornadoes can momentarily exceed 90mph, but these great speeds are never maintained. Most of the fastest tornadoes occur in the South from late-November through April, but similar conditions can cause extremely fast moving tornadoes from Tennessee to Michigan.
In 2012, an extremely violent and fast-moving tornado was filmed as it sped through the town of Henryville, Indiana, at more than 60mph (Video contains strong language). The multi-vortex tornado was powerful enough to loft vehicles more than 200 yards, scour a highway of pavement and completely sweep away several large, two-story brick homes. While rated an EF4 by the NWS, the tornado probably had instantaneous gusts capable of causing EF5 damage in areas east of Henryville. (Video by Rhett Adams)
1a. 70mph+ – April 27, 2011
Many of the tornadoes in the 2011 Super Outbreak reached speeds of 70mph at some point in their development. Examples include the Hackleburg/Phil Campbell tornado as it ripped through Marion and Franklin Counties and the Smithville, Mississippi, tornado as it caused some of the most intense EF5 damage ever photographed in Monroe County.
1b. 70mph+ – March 2, 2012
The deadliest tornado outbreak of 2012 brought violent and fast-moving tornadoes to the states of Indiana and Kentucky. The deadliest two tornadoes in the outbreak – the Henryville, Indiana, tornado and the West Liberty, Kentucky, tornado – may have approached 75mph in periods of their development.
1c. 70mph+ – April 3, 1974
During the 1974 Super Outbreak, nearly every supercell was moving in excess of 50mph. The violent tornadoes that occurred in the state of Alabama – including the infamous Guin tornado – may have reached or momentarily surpassed 75mph.
IVa. The Highest Altitude Violent Tornado
IVb. The Deadliest and Most Intense Anticyclonic Tornado Ever Recorded
IVc. The Deadliest Hurricane Spawned Tornado
IVd. The Highest Above-Ground Tornado Fatality Rate
IVe. The Most Fatalities in a Single Building (post-1970)
IVf. The Most Fatalities in a Single Mobile Home Park
IVg. The Fastest Tornado Movement Ever Recorded Using Photogrammetry
IVh. The Heaviest Object Ever Lifted by a Tornado
□ Vb. Graph of the Deadliest Tornadoes by Decade