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Historic April 25th-28th Tornado Outbreak of 2011; Largest in Recorded History

Thursday April 25th, 2013

2 years ago today, we started a near 4 day severe weather outbreak that spawned nearly 360 tornadoes from Texas to Canada. April 27th, was the most active and deadliest day with nearly 200 tornadoes; 4 of those being EF5’s, which typically occur maybe once per year! Approximately 350 people were killed in the outbreak over 6 states; 238 of those in Alabama alone. According to NOAA, this was the 4th deadliest outbreak in U.S. history, which also caused 11 BILLION dollars in damage. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who was affected by the events that unfolded 2 years ago.

Tornado Paths

The image below are the tornado paths from April 25th-28th, 2011. Note the red and pink lines, those are the EF4 and EF5 tornado tracks…

April 25th, 2011

The Storm Prediction Center started their stretch of nightmarish weather on the 25th with a MODERATE risk of severe weather over the South-central part of the country.

There ended up being nearly 60 total tornado reports with more than 450 total severe storm reports on the day!

April 26th, 2011

The Storm Prediction Center Issued a HIGH RISK for the 26th over some of the same areas that got hit with severe weather the previous day. HIGH RISK days tend to be quite rare and are only saved/issued for days that seem to be EXTREMELY volatile. In fact, there have only been 92 high risk days since 1984.

The 26th saw nearly 800 reports of severe weather, 126 of them were tornado reports.

April 27th, 2011

This was the most active and deadliest day of the outbreak with nearly 200 tornado reports coming in from Alabama. Interestingly, there was another HIGH RISK issued, which is EXTREMELY RARE to see back-to-back HIGH RISK DAYS. In fact, since 1984, there have only been 9 back-to-back HIGH RISK days issued by the Storm Prediction Center. There is only 1 back-to-back-back HIGH RISK issuance and that occurred in May 1999. The same year as the Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak which saw the highest winds ever recorded in a tornado with winds possibly exceeding 318mph!

There were nearly 300 tornado reports that day, with more than 200 of those occurring in Alabama!

Nightmare Day…

Look at all of the Warning issued by the National Weather Service offices on the 27th. Could you image the pandemonium?? This is not something that anyone in charge of issuing warnings wants to see.

Morning of the 27th

Some thought that the morning round of showers and thunderstorms was the main event and that the severe threat was over. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.

By the afternoon a completely breed of storms was moving into the same areas that got hit that morning. Those were supercell thunderstorm, nearly each one of those was rotating and capable of producing a tornado, some of which were large and long lived!

Large, Long Lived Tornadoes

Take a look at the image below, that is one of the supercell thunderstorms that was tornadic. The cell started in Mississippi and was really quite impressive across Alabama and Georgia before finally dying off across western South Carolina. Unreal, huh?!? This is the particular cell that did extensive damage and fatalities around Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL.

Gut-Wrenching Radar Images

I, unfortunately, remember this day very well. I was glued to television reports and the radar as the events were unfolding. I happened to capture these incredible images from a high resolution radar program called GR2 that day. Here’s the Birmingham, AL tornado…

Here’s the Tuscaloosa, AL tornado… To be honest, I had never seen anything like it before on radar. I still get chills and sick to my stomach when looking at the image, knowing what was going on at ground level…

Tuscaloosa, AL Before and After

This is hard to look at too. Here are satellite images from before and after the tornado event.

April 28th, 2011

This was the last days of the incredible severe weather outbreak. Folks along and East of the Appalachians were under the gun.

There ended up being more than 100 severe weather reports on the 28th, 15 of those were tornado reports.

Historic April 2011

As April 2011 wrapped up, there had been 758 tornadoes recorded during the entire month. That was good enough for the most active tornado month on record! The previous record was May of 2004 when 524 tornadoes were recorded. By the way, the April average is 161 tornadoes. April 2013 has only had 73 tornado reports.

2013 Tornado Stats

Thanks to persistent cooler than average weather, the 2013 tornado season is running a bit below average. According to NOAA’s SPC, there have been 225 preliminary tornadoes thru April 24th, which is nearly 250 below the average thru that date.

Since 2005, 2013 is behaving much like 2005 and 2010 so far this year. Note the red line, that’s the 2011 tornado trend and note the significant jump towards the end of April! There was also another pretty big jump in the tornado count in May.

Most Active Tornado Month: MAY

Even though we’ve seen a fairly quite tornado season thus far, we can’t let our guard down. In fact, May is the most active tornado month out of the entire year as the national monthly average is more than 270! The Plains States average the most by state with Texas leading the pack at 43!

Thanks for checking in and have a great rest of your week/weekend!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @TNelsonWNTV

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