Remembering the April 2011 Tornado Outbreak

Posted: April 25, 2016, 3:54 am by abarney

Five years ago today, disaster struck parts of the Southeast U.S. as a multi-day tornado outbreak reached its peak. While there were severe rounds of severe/tornadic storms and systems over the period of April 25 – 28, 2011… the most destructive day by far was today, on the 27th. All in all, 219 tornadoes touched down from midnight to midnight on the 27th. Despite the sheer number of tornadoes that reached the ground that day, what made this outbreak different from the others was the amount of long-track, violent tornadoes (EF-4/5 rating). There were 15 tornadoes rated EF-4 or EF-5 during the outbreak, mainly in Mississippi and Alabama. 



Visible satellite image showing the developing cyclone and associated thunderstorms across the Southeast United States on April 27, 2011. (Courtesy NOAA)


Perhaps one of the most notable tornadoes was the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado, which was on the ground for over 80 miles and developed estimated wind speeds of up to 190 mph. This was an EF-4 tornado that was up to 1.5 miles wide at one point resulting in 1,500 injuries and 65 fatalities. Needless to say, it produced massive destruction along its path as seen below is an aerial image of the damage path, taken by the National Weather Service (NWS).


Aerial damage survey photo taken on April 29, 2011, showing the extent of the damage in Alabama from the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham EF-4 tornado. (Courtesy NOAA/NWS)




Video of the Tuscaloosa tornado April 27, 2011 courtesy of Jason Rosolowski



When all was said and done, the outbreak left an estimate $11 billion in damages, 363 confirmed tornadoes, and 348 lost lives (of which 324 were tornado-related). It remains one of the costliest natural disasters in the history of the United States five years later. For more information on the outbreak, a review from the National Weather Service in Birmingham, AL is available here, and a brief satellite review is available here.



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