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April 27, 2011: Nine Years Later

27 Apr 2020, 9:00 am

Nine years ago, the largest single-day tornado outbreak in recent memory took hundreds of lives across the southeastern United States. April 27th, 2011 is a date that will live in meteorological history books forever, along with many others across the Southeast who experienced that fateful day.

A total of 321 people lost their lives as a result of 362 tornadoes. That made April 27th, 2011 the deadliest day for tornadoes in 75 years; the last time that many Americans had lost their lives in a tornado outbreak was back in 1936. It also produced about 11 billion dollars in damage.

Twenty-one different states – spanning a distance from Texas to New York – saw tornadoes touch down during the four-day outbreak that centered around the worst and deadliest day of them all: April 27th. But it was the power of the tornadoes – and the heavily-populated areas that they directly struck – that made this particular outbreak a once-in-a-generation type of event.

Thirty-eight tornadoes received a rating of an EF-3 or above that day, including 12 EF-4s and three EF-5s, the highest rating possible on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Most of those took place in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, and relatively highly-populated parts of those states. For context, the United States averages around 37 EF-3 or above tornadoes in an entire year.

Hardest-hit on April 27th, was, of course, the state of Alabama. The tornadoes that tore through Tuscaloosa, Cullman, Hackleburg and Birmingham – among a small sampling of impacted Alabama locations hit on April 27th – will forever be remembered. Over a thousand people were injured and 65 people were killed by the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham high-end EF-4 tornado alone.

Here’s a look at some of the tracks of the April 27th tornadoes, including (in red) the violent twisters from that day:


WeatherNation meteorologist David Neal, who was in Alabama during the outbreak, shared his experiences from the outbreak.

It wasn’t just April 27th itself, either. Dozens of other tornadoes struck between April 22nd and April 28th, including an EF-4 that moved through the north side of St. Louis, Missouri. Less than a month after April 27th, a huge EF-5 Joplin tornado devastated southwestern Missouri, killing more than 150 people.

But the date April 27th, 2011 tornado outbreak won’t soon be forgotten in the Southeast – and the hundreds of lives lost from them.

About the author
Chris doesn't remember a time when that he didn't love the weather. When he was five years old, he wrote his first words, "Partly cloudy", in Ms. Benn's kindergarten class. According to Chris, it's been a love affair ever since, from teaching himself how to read forecast models at age 12, to landing at WeatherNation. Growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut, he started to go after his lifelong drea... Load Morem of becoming a meteorologist by predicting whether or not there would be snow days - turning him into Greenwich High School's "defacto weatherman". He turned that snow day-predicting website into a front page story a local newspaper, which in turn earned him a look at WABC-TV in New York, where Chris did the weather live on-air at the age of 16. He attended Boston University, where he continued being a "weather nerd", performing weather updates on the campus radio and TV stations, and doing the daily forecasts for the student newspaper. Following his studies at BU, Chris worked at Mile High Sports and ESPN Denver for four years while pursuing his certification in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University. Chris is a huge sports fan, rooting for the Rockies, Nuggets, Broncos, Avalanche and UConn. He frequently find links between sports and weather, including an investigative analysis he did in 2013, finding trends between Peyton Manning's play and game time temperature (he doesn't like the cold). Chris also enjoys running, playing any sport, socializing and periodically overeating at all-you-can-eat buffets.

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