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Remembering the deadly Super Tornado Outbreak of 2011

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
April 25, 2019, 4:13:50 PM EDT


April 25-28 marks the anniversary of one of the biggest, deadliest and most destructive severe weather and tornado outbreaks in the United States in recorded history.

Some of the tornadoes during the April 2011 outbreak struck heavily populated areas.

AP Image Tornado Swath April 2011

This is an aerial view of tornado damage and the path the storm took through Tuscaloosa, Ala. on April 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


Despite alerts well in advance and short-term warnings, the storms during the 2011 outbreak took the lives of 321 people and injured approximately 2,900 others, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

More people died in this outbreak, when compared to the Super Outbreak of 1974. The April 1974 outbreak killed 315 people and spawned 148 tornadoes.

The April 2011 Super Outbreak was the deadliest such event since 1936, when 454 people were killed. The Tri-State Tornado of March 1925 killed nearly 700 people and injured more than 2,000 others.

Approximately 350 tornadoes occurred and spanned portions of the South, Midwest and the Northeast in the tornado swarms of late-April 2011.

Super Outbreak April 25-28, 2011

Information on this graphic is for tornadoes only. Damage from high winds and other severe weather phenomena was higher than shown and approached $11 billion. (Source Storm Prediction Center)


Many of the tornadoes, 207, occurred on April 27, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The most destructive tornado, a multiple-vortex EF4, took the lives of 65 people and injured more than 1,000 alone and traveled plowed through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama, during the late afternoon and evening on April 27.

EF scale


In a matter of minutes, more than 10% of the city of Tuscaloosa was destroyed and more than 1,600 were left homeless, including many students at the University of Alabama.

At one point, this Alabama tornado was 1.5 miles wide with winds of 190 mph. The tornado was on the ground for more than 80 miles.

The same thunderstorm that spawned the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham tornado also spawned other twisters that skipped along a 380-mile-long swath from Mississippi to North Carolina.

Radar Tuscaloosa Tornado

This side-by-side radar image shows the traditional view on the left and the wind profile on the right of the thunderstorms that produced the Tuscaloosa, Ala., tornado on April 27, 2011. A classic hook-echo can be seen on the left image, while the concentration of bright colors near Tuscaloosa on the right is debris being tossed around at high speed by the tornado. (NOAA Doppler radar)


The Super Outbreak of 2011 included a total of three EF5 tornadoes with 12 EF4s and 21 EF3s.

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Some of the violent storms overlapped areas that were hit with severe weather and tornadoes earlier in the month.

A deadly and destructive tornado outbreak occurred spanning April 14-16, 2011, when 178 tornadoes occurred and resulted in the deaths of close to 40 people across parts of the Plains, South and Eastern Seaboard.

April 2011 brought a record 753 tornadoes to the U.S., according to the SPC. Records date back to 1950.

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