1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak

Last updated
1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak
Destruction in Wichita Falls, Texas, after the tornado
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationApril 10–11, 1979
Tornadoes confirmed59 confirmed
Max rating1 F4 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak22 days
Casualties58 fatalities, approximately 100 injuries
Areas affected Midwestern and Southern United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The 1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak was a tornado event that occurred on April 10, 1979, near the Red River Valley. It is noted for the F4 tornado that hit Wichita Falls, Texas, and is commonly referred to as "Terrible Tuesday" by many meteorologists. Additional ones were reported across the Southern Plains as well as in the Mississippi River Valley on April 10–11, 1979.

Tornado Violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the earths surface and a cumulonimbus cloud in the air

A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. The windstorm is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology to name a weather system with a low-pressure area in the center around which, from an observer looking down toward the surface of the earth, winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), are about 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour (480 km/h), are more than two miles (3 km) in diameter, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles.

Red River of the South major tributary of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers in the southern United States

The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major river in the southern United States of America. It was named for the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name. Although it was once a tributary of the Mississippi River, the Red River is now a tributary of the Atchafalaya River, a distributary of the Mississippi that flows separately into the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to the Mississippi River by the Old River Control Structure.

Wichita Falls, Texas City in Texas, United States

Wichita Falls is a city in and the county seat of Wichita County, Texas, United States. It is the principal city of the Wichita Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Archer, Clay, and Wichita Counties. According to the 2010 census, it had a population of 104,553, making it the 38th-most populous city in Texas. In addition, its central business district is 5 miles (8 km) from Sheppard Air Force Base, which is home to the Air Force's largest technical training wing and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the world's only multinationally staffed and managed flying training program chartered to produce combat pilots for both USAF and NATO.


Formation of the tornadoes

A deepening low pressure system formed in Colorado as a warm front lifted north pulling warm, moist, unstable air. There was strong upper level dynamics all coming together to produce strong tornado-producing supercells. In the early afternoon hours, three supercell thunderstorms formed. They moved northeastward, and as a trio spawned families of tornadoes. These supercells caused the most damaging tornadoes of the outbreak.

Colorado State of the United States of America

Colorado is a state of the Western United States encompassing most of the southern Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains. It is the 8th most extensive and 21st most populous U.S. state. The estimated population of Colorado was 5,695,564 on July 1, 2018, an increase of 13.25% since the 2010 United States Census.

Warm front

A warm front is a density discontinuity located at the leading edge of a homogeneous warm air mass, and is typically located on the equator-facing edge of an isotherm gradient. Warm fronts lie within broader troughs of low pressure than cold fronts, and move more slowly than the cold fronts which usually follow because cold air is denser and less easy to remove from the Earth's surface. This also forces temperature differences across warm fronts to be broader in scale. Clouds ahead of the warm front are mostly stratiform, and rainfall gradually increases as the front approaches. Fog can also occur preceding a warm frontal passage. Clearing and warming is usually rapid after frontal passage. If the warm air mass is unstable, thunderstorms may be embedded among the stratiform clouds ahead of the front, and after frontal passage thundershowers may continue. On weather maps, the surface location of a warm front is marked with a red line of semicircles pointing in the direction of travel.

The first tornado formed near Crowell, Texas, at around 3:05 p.m. About 35 minutes later, the first killer one of the outbreak ripped through Vernon and killed 11 people. Then the supercell spawned one that killed three people in Lawton, Oklahoma. The second supercell spawned one that moved 64 miles (103 km).

Crowell, Texas City in Texas, United States

Crowell is a city in Foard County, Texas, United States. It serves as the county seat, and the population was 948 at the 2010 census, down from 1,141 at the 2000 census.

Vernon, Texas City in Texas, United States

Vernon is a city in Wilbarger County, Texas, United States. It is the county seat, and as of the 2010 Census had a population of 11,002.

Lawton, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma

The city of Lawton is the county seat of Comanche County, in the State of Oklahoma. Located in southwestern Oklahoma, about 87 mi (140 km) southwest of Oklahoma City, it is the principal city of the Lawton, Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the 2010 census, Lawton's population was 96,867, making it the fifth-largest city in the state.

More destruction from the Wichita Falls tornado Wftornado3.jpg
More destruction from the Wichita Falls tornado

Wichita Falls, Texas

The third supercell was the one that formed the Seymour and Wichita Falls tornadoes as part of a three-member tornado family. The first one formed near Seymour at around 4:53 pm. The storm spawned a second one and moved through the south and east sides of Wichita Falls at around 6:00 pm. The third member of the family formed near Waurika, Oklahoma, at around 8:00 p.m.

Seymour, Texas City in Texas, United States

Seymour is a city in and the county seat of Baylor County, Texas, United States. The population was 2,740 as of the 2010 Census.

Tornado family

A tornado family is a series of tornadoes spawned by the same supercell thunderstorm. These families form a line of successive or parallel tornado paths and can cover a short span or a vast distance. Tornado families are sometimes mistaken as a single continuous tornado, especially prior to the 1970s. Sometimes the tornado tracks can overlap and expert analysis is necessary to determine whether or not damage was created by a family or a single tornado. In some cases, such as the Hesston-Goessel, Kansas tornadoes of March 1990, different tornadoes of a tornado family merge, making discerning whether an event was continuous or not more difficult.

Waurika, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Waurika is the county seat of Jefferson County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 2,064 at the 2010 census, a 4.36 percent decrease from 2,158 at the 2000 census.

The Wichita Falls tornado formed in Archer County and moved northeast and damaged a few rural homes and high voltage towers. It rapidly intensified as it entered the city near Memorial Stadium by McNiel Jr. High on Southwest Parkway, which was located to the west of Wichita Falls at approximately 6:07 p.m. damaging both structures severely. Hail the size of golf balls preceded the touchdown and continued for approximately 15 minutes. It then became calm before the winds began to pick up.

Archer County, Texas County in the United States

Archer County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 9,054. Its county seat is Archer City. The county was formed in 1858 and later organized in 1880. It is named for Branch Tanner Archer, a commissioner for the Republic of Texas.

Outbreak death toll
Indiana 1 Warrick 1
Oklahoma 3 Comanche 3
Texas 54 Wichita 42
Wilbarger 12
All deaths were tornado-related,

The massive wedge tornado, which was at its maximum 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, cut a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) swath of destruction through the south side of town, leveling everything in its path. It destroyed an apartment complex near the beginning of its path. It also took its first lives there. It later destroyed a restaurant, the majority of Sikes Senter, the major mall, and another apartment complex where it took more lives. Neighborhoods all along Southwest Parkway were leveled and nothing but debris and destruction remained.

A number of people tried to flee as the tornado moved along U.S. Highways 281 and 287. Roughly half of the 46 people killed were killed in their cars. It then moved into Clay County and changed its appearance to display a multiple-vortex structure. There were at times 5 separate vortices visible within the tornado. It inflicted additional damage south of Dean and Byers, but no more fatalities occurred. It crossed into Oklahoma where additional damage occurred before it dissipated.

U.S. Route 281 highway in the United States

U.S. Route 281 is a north–south United States highway. At 1,875 miles (3,017.5 km) long it is the longest continuous three-digit U.S. Route.

U.S. Route 287 U.S. Highway in the United States

U.S. Route 287 (US 287) is a north–south United States highway. It is 1,791 miles (2,882 km) long. It serves as the major truck route between Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming. The highway is broken into two segments by Yellowstone National Park, where an unnumbered park road serves as a connector.

Clay County, Texas County in the United States

Clay County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 10,752. The county seat is Henrietta. The county was founded in 1857 and later organized in 1860. It is named in honor of Henry Clay, famous American statesman, Kentucky Senator and United States Secretary of State.


At the end of the outbreak, 54 people lost their lives in Texas, three were killed in Oklahoma and one was killed in Indiana. The Wichita Falls tornado alone killed 42 people and caused $400 million in damage ($1.78 billion in today's dollars). [1] The tornado cut a path 8 miles (13 km) through the city, with significant devastation.

Confirmed tornadoes

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating

April 10 event

List of confirmed tornadoes – Tuesday, April 10, 1979 [nb 1]
F# LocationCounty / ParishStateStart Coord.Time (UTC)Path lengthMax widthSummaryRefs
F0S of Crosbyton Crosby TX 33°39′N101°14′W / 33.65°N 101.23°W / 33.65; -101.23 (Crosbyton (Apr. 10, F0)) 19082 miles (3.2 km) [2] [3]
F0E of Plainview Hale TX 34°12′N101°41′W / 34.20°N 101.68°W / 34.20; -101.68 (Plainview (Apr. 10, F0)) 19380.1 miles (160 m) [2] [3]
F2SW of Foard City to S of Rayland Foard TX 33°51′N99°48′W / 33.85°N 99.80°W / 33.85; -99.80 (Foard City (Apr. 10, F0)) 210522.1 miles (35.6 km)Homes were unroofed and barns were destroyed. [2] [3]
F4SE of Rayland, Texas to NE of Davidson, Oklahoma Foard (TX), Wilbarger (TX), Tillman (OK) TX, OK 34°02′N99°28′W / 34.03°N 99.47°W / 34.03; -99.47 (Rayland (Apr. 10, F0)) 212039.7 miles (63.9 km)11 deaths – Large wedge tornado struck the town of Vernon, where numerous homes and businesses were destroyed including a cafe, motel, and truck stop. 7 of the deaths occurred when vehicles were thrown from US-287. Tornado crossed into Oklahoma, destroying 3 homes and damaging 5 others. Caused $27,000,000 in damage and injured an additional 67 people. [2] [3]
F0SE of Thalia Foard TX 33°59′N99°32′W / 33.98°N 99.53°W / 33.98; -99.53 (Thalia (Apr. 10, F0)) 21202.5 miles (4.0 km) [2] [3]
F2 Harrold, Texas to Marlow, Oklahoma Wilbarger (TX), Wichita (TX), Tillman (OK), Cotton (OK), Comanche (OK), Stephens (OK) TX, OK 34°05′N99°02′W / 34.08°N 99.03°W / 34.08; -99.03 (Harrold (Apr. 10, F0)) 215574.1 miles (119.3 km)1 death – Large wedge tornado moved through Texas and Oklahoma. Eight planes were destroyed at an airport near Grandfield, and a home in the area lost its exterior walls. A grain elevator was destroyed in the Hulen area, and homes were damaged in Pumpkin Center and near Walters. Fatality occurred when a woman took shelter underneath a semi-truck, which rolled over her when the tornado struck. [2] [3]
F2N of Hollister Tillman OK 34°21′N98°54′W / 34.35°N 98.90°W / 34.35; -98.90 (Hollister (Apr. 10, F0)) 22059.2 miles (14.8 km)Three houses were destroyed and several others were damaged. [2] [3]
F1N of Faxon Comanche OK 34°28′N98°37′W / 34.47°N 98.62°W / 34.47; -98.62 (Faxon (Apr. 10, F0)) 22357.1 miles (11.4 km)A mobile home was destroyed in the Faxson area, resulting in two serious injuries. Other homes in the area were damaged. Tornado left suction vortex marks in open fields. [2] [3]
F2NE of Seymour Baylor TX 33°37′N99°18′W / 33.62°N 99.30°W / 33.62; -99.30 (Seymour (Apr. 10, F0)) 224910.4 miles (16.7 km)Tornado damaged roofs, telephone poles, trees, uprooted shrubs and overturned a truck, but remained over open country while at peak intensity. Tornado was well documented on film and by NSSL storm researchers. [2] [3]
F3 Lawton area Comanche OK 34°34′N98°25′W / 34.57°N 98.42°W / 34.57; -98.42 (Lawton (Apr. 10, F0)) 23054.5 miles (7.2 km)3 deaths – Strong tornado struck Lawton, destroying over 116 structures, and damaging over 330 others. Unanchored homes were completely swept from their foundations. One of the fatalities occurred when a car was tossed from a road. [2] [3]
F1SW of Iowa Park Wichita TX 33°54′N98°48′W / 33.90°N 98.80°W / 33.90; -98.80 (Iowa Park (Apr. 10, F0)) 23080.1 miles (160 m) [2] [3]
F4SW of Wichita Falls to E of Waurika, Oklahoma Archer (TX), Wichita (TX), Clay, Jefferson (OK) TX, OK 33°49′N98°39′W / 33.82°N 98.65°W / 33.82; -98.65 (Wichita Falls (Apr. 10, F0)) 235046.9 miles (75.5 km)42 deathsSee section on this tornado [2] [3]
F1 Wichita Falls area Wichita TX 33°54′N98°30′W / 33.90°N 98.50°W / 33.90; -98.50 (Wichita Falls (Apr. 10, F0)) 00002 miles (3.2 km)Second, much weaker tornado in the area. [2] [3]
F2S of Noble Cleveland OK 35°06′N97°22′W / 35.10°N 97.37°W / 35.10; -97.37 (Noble (Apr. 10, F0)) 00402 miles (3.2 km)Two barns were damaged. [2] [3]
F2E of Bellemont Pottawatomie, Lincoln OK 35°25′N96°45′W / 35.42°N 96.75°W / 35.42; -96.75 (Bellemont (Apr. 10, F0)) 00454.6 miles (7.4 km)Two trailers were destroyed, and three homes were damaged. One person was injured. [2] [3]
F2SW of Noble Cleveland OK 35°06′N97°24′W / 35.10°N 97.40°W / 35.10; -97.40 (Noble (Apr. 10, F0)) 00501.5 miles (2.4 km)A mobile home was destroyed. [2] [3]
F1 Hays area Ellis KS 38°52′N99°19′W / 38.87°N 99.32°W / 38.87; -99.32 (Hays (Apr. 10, F0)) 01300.5 miles (0.80 km)67 yd (61 m) [2] [3]
F3W of Pruitt City Carter OK 34°21′N97°36′W / 34.35°N 97.60°W / 34.35; -97.60 (Pruitt City (Apr. 10, F0)) 015512.8 miles (20.6 km)Severe damage in the Pruitt City area. 44 homes and mobile homes were damaged or destroyed. Several vehicles, including a bus, were flipped and tossed. [2] [3]
F0W of Oakland Pottawatomie OK 34°07′N96°48′W / 34.12°N 96.80°W / 34.12; -96.80 (Oakland (Apr. 10, F0)) 02050.2 miles (320 m) [2] [3]
F2SW of Novice Runnels, Coleman TX 31°58′N99°48′W / 31.97°N 99.80°W / 31.97; -99.80 (Novice (Apr. 10, F0)) 03179.6 miles (15.4 km)Large tornado destroyed several barns and scattered debris over a large area. [2] [3]
F3SW of Talpa to N of Coleman Runnels, Coleman TX 31°42′N99°45′W / 31.70°N 99.75°W / 31.70; -99.75 (Talpa (Apr. 10, F0)) 033025 miles (40 km)Homes and barns were ripped apart. [2] [3]
F1SE of Comanche Comanche TX 31°52′N98°31′W / 31.87°N 98.52°W / 31.87; -98.52 (Comanche (Apr. 10, F0)) 05500.1 miles (160 m) [2] [3]
F2S of Energy to W of Hico Comanche, Hamilton TX 31°45′N98°22′W / 31.75°N 98.37°W / 31.75; -98.37 (Energy (Apr. 10, F0)) 055024 miles (39 km)Barns were destroyed and homes sustained roof damage. A woman was injured when her truck rolled into the ditch in which she was taking cover. [2] [3]
F1 Mineral Wells area Palo Pinto TX 32°48′N98°07′W / 32.80°N 98.12°W / 32.80; -98.12 (Mineral Wells (Apr. 10, F0)) 05560.1 miles (160 m) [2] [3]

April 11 event

List of reported tornadoes – Wednesday, April 11, 1979
County / Parish
Time (UTC)
Path length
Path width
F1NE of Southmayd Grayson 02060.1 miles (160 m)
F2N of Athens Henderson, Van Zandt 161013.3 miles (21.4 km)
F2 Sulphur Springs area Hopkins 16128.3 miles (13.4 km)
F1NW of Hainesville Wood 17020.1 miles (160 m)
F0N of Oakland Pottawatomie 02050.2 miles (320 m)
F1NE of Allen Pontotoc 06013 miles (4.8 km)
F2NW of Kingston Marshall 07050.1 miles (160 m)A trailer and three barns were destroyed.
F0W of Beland Muskogee 10000.1 miles (160 m)
F2SW of Eagletown to W of Big Fork (AR) McCurtain, Sevier (AR), Polk (AR) 171542 miles (68 km)3 people were injured in a mobile home near the beginning of the path. Major damage in the Grannis area. Six homes, 19 trailers, and an elementary school were destroyed, where 4 students were injured. Two homes were also destroyed near Wickes. Tornado injured a total of 20 people and caused $1,750,000 in damage.
F2E of Hattieville Conway 13105.4 miles (8.7 km)Six barns and two homes were destroyed. Other homes, barns, and outbuildings were damaged.
F1W of Mountain View Stone 14428.7 miles (14.0 km)
F2 Prairie Grove area Washington 160211.1 miles (17.9 km)
F2NE of Bodcaw Nevada 20100.5 miles (0.80 km)Three homes were destroyed and others were damaged.
F2SW of Guy Faulkner 20153 miles (4.8 km)Several buildings were torn apart and a cemetery was damaged. Caused $190,000 in damage.
F2E of East End to NE of Lonoke Saline, Pulaski, Lonoke 210040.3 miles (64.9 km)Several trailers were destroyed. Damage also occurred to machinery, homes and outbuildings.
F1NE of Fryatt Fulton 21450.5 miles (0.80 km)
F1W of Beebe White 21506.5 miles (10.5 km)
F2NE of Crossett Ashley 221010.4 miles (16.7 km)Tornado caused $3,500,000 to the downtown business district in Hamburg. Second tornado to strike Hamburg in three days.
F2NW of Black Rock Lawrence 22352 miles (3.2 km)Caused over $300,000 in damage to homes, barns, and a rock crushing plant.
F2E of McGehee Desha 23153.6 miles (5.8 km)Homes and businesses were torn apart in the McGehee area. Caused a total of $449,000 in damage.
F0W of Hurley Stone 13100.1 miles (160 m)
F3W of Sterling to E of Licking Douglas, Texas 150035.4 miles (57.0 km)
F0SW of Bakersfield Ozark 21152.7 miles (4.3 km)
F1NE of Libertyville St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve 23308.5 miles (13.7 km)A concrete block building was destroyed, and another was partially destroyed. A home was badly damaged, losing a large portion of its front side. Two barns were also destroyed and scattered across a field.
F2 Liberty to SE of Barnesville Clay, Clinton 010020.1 miles (32.3 km)Several homes and businesses, a mobile home park, a church, and a school were damaged. Three barns were destroyed as well. 5 bus passengers were injured when they took shelter in a ditch, only to have the bus roll onto them.
F1NW of Colby Thomas 21000.1 miles (160 m)
F1N of Topeka Shawnee 23004.1 miles (6.6 km)
F1SW of Homer Claiborne 21002 miles (3.2 km)
F0S of Sweetwater Buffalo 00000.5 miles (0.80 km)
F1NW of Roundaway Coahoma 00050.5 miles (0.80 km)
F2NE of Columbus Lowndes 0900 (04/12)7.7 miles (12.4 km)
F2S of Dycusburg to W of Bellville Crittenden, Webster, Henderson 015036 miles (58 km)Tornado tore a large section of roof from an elementary school near Robards. 5 people were injured when trailers were overturned.
F2SW of Boonville Vanderburgh, Warrick 020010 miles (16 km)1 death – Moved from the east side of Evansville to north of Boonville. A shopping center and a lumber yard were damaged. 1 person was killed and two others were injured when the tornado struck a mobile home park.
F0 Dickson area Dickson 05000.3 miles (480 m)
F1 Florence area Lauderdale 05300.5 miles (0.80 km)
Source: Tornado History Project - April 11, 1979 Storm Data Grazulis (1977)

See also


  1. All dates are based on the local time zone where the tornado touched down; however, all times are in Coordinated Universal Time for consistency.

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The tornado outbreak of April 10–11, 2001, was a large tornado outbreak which affected the central Great Plains on April 10–11, 2001. During the two-day outbreak, it produced a total of 79 tornadoes across eight states including Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. Four people were killed, 18 injured, and more than $23 million in damage was reported. The fatalities were reported in Oklahoma, Iowa and Missouri including two from a single tornado in Wapello County, Iowa.

Early-April 1957 tornado outbreak sequence

The Early-April 1957 tornado outbreak sequence was a deadly tornado outbreak sequence that struck most of the Southern United States from April 2–5, 1957. The outbreak killed at least 21 people across three states and produced at least 72 tornadoes from Texas to Virginia. The outbreak was most notable due to a tornado that hit a densely populated area of the Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area, killing 10 people and injuring 200 or more. The tornado, highly visible for most of its path, was at the time the most observed and best-documented tornado in recorded history; hundreds of people photographed or filmed the F3 tornado as it moved just west of Downtown Dallas. The film of this tornado is still known for its unusually high quality and sharpness, considering the photography techniques and technology of the 1950s. Damage from the Dallas tornado reached as high as $4 million. Besides the famous Dallas tornado, other deadly tornadoes struck portions of Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma. Two F4 tornadoes struck southern Oklahoma on April 2, killing five people. Three other significant, F2-rated tornadoes that day killed two people in Texas and one more in Oklahoma. An F3 tornado struck rural Mississippi on April 4, killing one more person. In addition to confirmed tornadoes, a possible tornado hit Ballard County, Kentucky, on April 3, unroofing homes, destroying a drive-in theater, and uprooting trees. A loud roaring noise was heard. Two other brief tornadoes may have hit near Westlake and at Tallulah, Louisiana, late on April 4.

February 1971 Mississippi Delta tornado outbreak

The February 1971 Mississippi Delta tornado outbreak struck portions of the Lower Mississippi River Valley and the Southeastern United States on February 21–22. The two-day tornado outbreak produced at least 19 tornadoes, and probably several more, mostly brief events in rural areas; killed 123 people across three states; and "virtually leveled" entire communities in the state of Mississippi. Three violent, long-lived tornadoes—two of which may have been tornado families—in western Mississippi and northeastern Louisiana caused most of the deaths along 300 miles (483 km) of path. One of the tornadoes attained F5 intensity in Louisiana, the only such event on record in the state. The outbreak also generated strong tornadoes from Texas to Ohio and North Carolina. The entire outbreak is the second deadliest ever in February, behind only the Enigma tornado outbreak in 1884 and ahead of the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak. February 21 was the fourth-deadliest day for tornadoes in Mississippi on record. At one point, the National Weather Service WSR-57 radar in Jackson, Mississippi, reported four hook echoes, often indicative of tornado-producing supercells, simultaneously.

Tornado outbreak sequence of May 1896

The tornado outbreak sequence of May 1896 was a series of violent and deadly tornado outbreaks that struck much of the Central and Southern United States from May 15 to 28, 1896. It is considered one of the worst tornado outbreak sequences on record with tornado expert Tom Grazulis stating that the week of May 24–28 was "perhaps the most violent single week of tornado activity in United States history". There were four particularly notable tornado outbreaks during the two-week period. It produced three F5 tornadoes as well as the third deadliest tornado ever in United States history. A total of 484 people were killed during the entire outbreak sequence by at least 38 different tornadoes which struck Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky, and Michigan.

March 1990 Central United States tornado outbreak

The March 1990 Central United States tornado outbreak affected portions of the United States Great Plains and Midwest regions from Iowa to Texas from March 11 to March 13, 1990. The outbreak produced at least 64 tornadoes across the region, including four violent tornadoes; two tornadoes, which touched down north and west of Wichita, Kansas, were both rated F5, including the tornado that struck Hesston. In Nebraska, several strong tornadoes touched down across the southern and central portion of the state, including an F4 that traveled for 131 miles (211 km). Two people were killed in the outbreak, one apiece by the two F5s in Kansas.

The late-April 1909 tornado outbreak was a deadly tornado outbreak that affected much of the central and Southern United States between April 29 and May 1, 1909. Affecting particularly the Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys, it killed over 150 people, 60 of them in the U.S. state of Tennessee alone. It was the deadliest known tornado outbreak to affect Tennessee until March 21, 1952, when 64 people died statewide. To this day, the 1909 outbreak remains the second-deadliest on record in Tennessee—even the April 3–4, 1974 Super Outbreak and the February 5–6, 2008, Super Tuesday outbreak produced just 45 and 31 deaths each in the state.

May–June 1917 tornado outbreak sequence

The 1917 May–June tornado outbreak sequence was an eight-day tornado event, known as a tornado outbreak sequence, that killed at least 383 people, mostly in the Midwestern and parts of the Southeastern United States. It was the most intense and the longest continuous tornado outbreak sequence on record, with at least 73 tornadoes including 15 that were analyzed to have been violent (F4–F5) based upon reported damage. The deadliest tornado of the entire sequence produced a 155-mile (249 km) track across Illinois, killing 101 people and devastating the towns of Charleston and Mattoon along with small farming communities. Once believed to have traveled 290-mile (470 km) cross Illinois and into Indiana, it is now assessed to have been a tornado family of four to eight separate tornadoes.

The 1995 Great Barrington tornado was an F4 tornado that occurred in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington.

The April 1920 tornado outbreak was a multi-day severe weather event that affected the Southeastern United States on April 19–21, 1920. The most intense portion of the outbreak occurred on the morning of April 20. At least seven tornadoes affected the American U.S. states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, six of them rated violent F4s on the Fujita scale. At least one of them may have attained F5 intensity, though this is uncertain. The tornado outbreak killed at least 243 people.

This page documents notable tornadoes and tornado outbreaks worldwide in 1973, but mostly features events in the United States. According to tornado researcher Thomas P. Grazulis, documentation of tornadoes outside the United States was historically less exhaustive, owing to the lack of monitors in many nations and, in some cases, to internal political controls on public information. Most countries only recorded tornadoes that produced severe damage or loss of life. Consequently, available documentation in 1973 mainly covered the United States. On average, most recorded tornadoes, including the vast majority of significant—F2 or stronger—tornadoes, form in the U.S., although as many as 500 may take place internationally. Some locations, like Bangladesh, are as prone to violent tornadoes as the U.S., meaning F4 or greater events on the Fujita scale.


  1. Brooks, Harold E.; Charles A. Doswell III (February 2001). "Normalized Damage from Major Tornadoes in the United States: 1890–1999" (abstract). Weather and Forecasting . American Meteorological Society. 16 (1): 168–76. Bibcode:2001WtFor..16..168B. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2001)016<0168:NDFMTI>2.0.CO;2.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 April 10, 1979 Storm Data (Report). Tornado History Project. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Grazulis (1979) (Report). Thomas P. Grazulis.
Preceded by
Omaha, Ne. (1975)
Costliest U.S. tornadoes on Record
April 10, 1979
Succeeded by
Bridge Creek, Moore & Oklahoma City (Metro), Ok. (1999)