Another EF-5 Tornado Declared in Wednesday's Outbreak

May 3, 2011; 2:05 AM ET
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Search and Rescue team members look through the rubble of a house in Smithville, Miss., Thursday, April 28, 2011, following a tornado touchdown Wednesday afternoon. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

A second tornado from Wednesday's horrific outbreak across the South has been classified as an EF-5 twister. Not since 1990 have two F5/EF-5 tornadoes touched down on the same day.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Memphis, Tenn., declared Friday morning that the violent tornado that ripped through Smithville, Miss., was an EF-5, the highest rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This is the first EF-5 tornado to hit the U.S. since 2008 and the first to hit Mississippi since 1966.

The Smithville tornado killed at least 14 people. Peak winds were estimated at 205 mph. The twister's path was 2.82 miles long and up to half a mile wide.

On Saturday, the NWS also indicated that damage from the tornado that struck Hackleburg, Ala., and other parts of Marion county was consistent of an EF-5 twister. At least 25 people were killed in this tornado.

Wednesday is the first day that two EF-5 (labeled F5 before 2007) tornadoes have touched down on the same day since March 13, 1990. Kansas was the site of those two F5 tornadoes in 1990.

According to a preliminary report from the NWS office in Huntsville, Ala., Friday night, the tornado that tore through Alabama's western DeKalb County was listed as an EF-4 with maximum winds of 175 mph. The tornado remained on the ground for 33 miles and killed at least 32 people.

The tornado that killed seven people in Catoosa County, Ga., has been rated an EF-4, according to the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Ga. Since 1950, there have only been eight other EF-4 tornadoes that have touched down in Georgia.

The Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, Ala., tornado that killed more than 65 people has also been rated an EF-4, but the NWS indicated that the ranking could increase upon further inspection of the damage.

Wednesday is the deadliest tornado day in the United States since March 18, 1925, when 747 people lost their lives.

This is why mobile homes are not safe in the event of a tornado, and why people who live in mobile homes need to have an action plan for getting to a safe shelter before a tornado hits. Concrete steps lead to remains of a tornado-demolished mobile home in Preston, Miss., Wednesday, April 27, 2011. The home and one next to it were blown about 100 feet away into a cow pasture. Three related women died at the site. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and southern Tennessee suffered the worst of the tornado outbreak.

Most of the tornado sightings reported to the Storm Prediction Center Wednesday came from these states. The actual number of tornadoes that touched down will be lower since numerous twisters remained on the ground for lengthy stretches of time, leading to multiple sightings.

NWS storm survey crews must investigate the destruction before the tally of tornadoes from Wednesday is finalized. These crews will also officially rank each tornado, using the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Meteorologist Heather Buchman has an explanation of why Wednesday's outbreak was so devastating.

Content contributed by meteorologist Heather Buchman


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