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May's 10 Worst Tornado Outbreaks

Nick Wiltgen
Published: May 1, 2013

2. May 26-29, 1973: Oklahoma to Georgia

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service office in Centreville, Ala., took a direct hit from a long-track F4 tornado in the May 1973 outbreak. A radar unit lies smashed on the ground on the right edge of this photo.

99 tornadoes | 21 deaths | 790 injuries | $274 million

A prolonged outbreak of tornadoes began in the Central and Southern Plains on May 26 and pressed east into the Deep South on May 27-28.

Among the more notable tornadoes, a long-track F4 tore a swath across nearly the full width of central Alabama May 27 from Demopolis to Greensboro, Brent, Centreville, and Montevallo before lifting and setting down intermittently on its way to Mount Cheaha. Ninety percent of Brent was destroyed. Five of the seven Alabamians killed by this tornado died in that town.

The previous day, F4 tornadoes struck near Keefeton, Okla. (five dead, four in one truck) and a 55-mile swath across eastern Arkansas, killing three - one of them in Jonesboro, site of that F4 we mentioned earlier in May 1968.

In the late stages of this outbreak an F3 ripped through the north side of the Athens, Ga., area, causing $10 million in losses.

This outbreak began just two days after a famous F4 tornado clipped Union City, Okla.; this was the first tornado whose entire life cycle was studied by tornado researchers using an experimental Doppler radar.

Next, we finally reveal the #1 May tornado outbreak.


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