Tornadoes, some of the most violent storms on the planet, are capable of unthinkable destruction in a matter of seconds. Often unpredictable, these incredible weather phenomena are responsible for some of the most extreme impacts on the Earth, killing more people in the southeastern United States than anywhere else in the country.
April is a particularly dangerous month for tornadoes in parts of the U.S. In April 2011, 758 U.S. tornadoes set the record for any month. The April 26-28, 2011 "Superoutbreak" holds the record for the most tornadoes from a single outbreak. At least 349 tornadoes touched down across 21 states in the three days combined.
April 27 was the peak day with nearly 200 tornadoes confirmed. Four of those tornadoes were rated EF5, the highest rating possible. Swaths of Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Cullman, Alabama; Birmingham, Alabama; Hackleburg, Alabama; Smithville, Mississippi; Ringgold, Georgia and Cleveland, Tennessee were leveled.
A total of 72 tornadoes touched down in Tennessee on April 27, 2011, which is the highest number of tornadoes in a single calendar day for any state in the country.
Incidentally, 62 tornadoes also tore through Alabama on that infamous April day.
A total of 324 people were killed and 2,775 were injured.
Incidentally, April is not just a dangerously tornadic month in just the U.S. What is officially considered the world's deadliest single tornado killed an estimated 1,300 in Bangladesh on April 30, 1989.
Officially, the fastest-moving tornado was the Tri-State Tornado in 1925 with a forward speed of 73 mph, t he Tri-State Tornado o n March 18, 1925 , is the deadliest on record , which carved an estimated 219-mile-long path from southeast Missouri to southern Illinois and southwest Indiana.
A total of 695 people were killed, in Murphysboro, Illinois, alone, 234 people were killed, which is the single highest tornado death toll for any city in the United States.
This year has also already had more tornado-related deaths than we saw in all of last year. An average of 70 tornado-related deaths occurred annually from 1986 to 2015, according to NOAA. A total of 17 people were killed by tornadoes in 2016. The tornado death toll for 2017 has risen to 26 after an EF1 destroyed a mobile home and killed two people in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, Sunday morning.
Most of the fatalities from tornadoes so far this year occurred during a Jan. 21-22 outbreak that killed 20 people in the South. The other four additional tornado-related deaths were in Illinois and Missouri on Feb. 28.
The NWS says that nearly 40 percent of all tornado deaths have historically occurred in mobile homes. Reinforcing this is the fact that 17 of the 26 tornado-related deaths for 2017, or about 65 percent, have occurred in mobile homes.
This month, NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory kicked-off the second year of VORTEX-SE, a research program designed to understand how environmental factors and terrain in the southeastern U.S. affect tornadoes in that region. VORTEX-SE, shorthand for Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast, will also look at how people learn of the threats posed by these storms and how they respond to protect their lives and property.
This study, which runs March 8 through May 8, brings together 40 physical and social science researchers from 20 research organizations. Scientists will deploy NOAA’s P-3 aircraft, 13 vehicles, five mobile radars, one fixed radar and other instruments in northern Alabama.
Thunderstorms in the Great Plains, such as this supercell that produced a tornado near Burwell, Nebraska, June 16, 2014, are different from storms in the southeastern United States. That's why this spring (2017), NOAA scientists and partners are deploying instruments near Huntsville, Alabama, as part of the VORTEX-SE research project.