The weather across the country this weekend is very nice in comparison to what happened 36 years ago. April 3-4, 1974, marks the anniversary of the greatest tornado outbreak in United States history, which stretched from the Deep South all the way to the Great Lakes.
Forecasters knew something was coming in the days preceding the event. They knew a developing storm system over the central part of the nation had potential to bring severe weather. But lacking today's technology, the exact location and severity of the outbreak was unknown.
In fact, NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued an alert on April 2 stating that they believed the primary threat was going to be confined to the middle and lower Mississippi Valley. This gave many weather offices around the region 24 hours to prepare for the impending outbreak. However, this alert did not include areas that were the actual target, but instead was too far west.
Two severe weather watches were issued before daybreak Wednesday, April 3 for parts of the lower Mississippi Valley, but few severe thunderstorms were noted in the region. By late morning, thunderstorms began to rapidly develop in the Ohio Valley.
Throughout the remainder of the day through early Thursday, 28 weather watches were issued which covered an area from the Mississippi River to the East Coast. During that period, NOAA issued about 150 tornado warnings, of which 148 tornadoes were confirmed.
(Destruction in Northfield, Kentucky. Courtesy of Russ Conger/NWS)
One tornado that went through Brandenburg, Ky. completely destroyed the town. It killed 28 people. Another tornado that went over Xenia, Ohio leveled half the town and killed 33.
The "Super Outbreak" spanned 18 hours and struck 13 states. It killed 315 people and injured 6,100 others. The total damage reached a half billion dollars.
(Some information gathered from NOAA.)
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