10 Worst U.S. Tornado Outbreaks

Dr. Greg Forbes
Published: April 5, 2013

#10: (tie) Oklahoma, etc. (May 24-26, 2011) and Paris/Broken Bow (Apr. 2-3, 1982)
Forbes Impact Index:  22

Associated Press

A tornado moves north in Canadian County after having just crossed SH-3, the Northwest Expressway, towards Piedmont, Okla. on May 24, 2011. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Southerland)

Fast Facts

  • May 24-26, 2011:  186 tornadoes, 4 of which were violent (EF4/EF5)
  • EF5 tornado tore a 75-mile path across central Oklahoma on May 24, 2011
  • 18 killed on May 24, 2011 in Okla., Kan. and Ark.
  • Apr, 2-3, 1982:  56 tornadoes
  • Apr, 2-3, 1982:  30 killed, 383 injured

Wrapping up a stunningly deadly April and May in 2011 was one final outbreak that, while hitting the Southern Plains hardest, stretched into the Ohio Valley, Tennessee Valley and Northeast.

The signature tornado from this outbreak was a massive EF5 "wedge" tornado that tore through areas to the west, northwest and north of Oklahoma City on May 24.  As a sidelight, the EF5 rating was assigned based on measurements from a University of Oklahoma mobile Doppler radar.  

This EF5 tornado claimed 7 lives in central Oklahoma, while injuring 112.  Additional killer tornadoes touched down in Logan, Grady and Major Counties.  Other killer tornadoes in this outbreak spun through Stafford County, Kan., as well as Franklin and Johnson Counties, Ark.  

The April 1982 tornado outbreak affected areas from north Texas to Illinois, but, as most outbreaks, was marked by several deadly and destructive tornadoes.

An F4 tornado leveled Paris, Texas killing 10 and injuring 170.  

Reaching a width of up to 1.5 miles wide, an F5 tornado carved out a 53-mile long path through McCurtain and Choctaw Counties in southeast Oklahoma.  This was the first F5 in the United States in almost five years, since the Birmingham, Ala. Apr. 4, 1977 tornado.  

Another F4 tornado carved a path in southwest Arkansas south of DeQueen and Nashville, ending near Blevins, claiming three lives.  

Our next outbreak corresponded to a fairly important election day.

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