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April Tornado Facts

April Tornado 1959 to 2006April  1959 to 2006            
Total Reported Tornadoes 5376 with   
15 F5    113 F4     329 F3    1059 F2   1856 F1    2004 F0
Of the total tornadoes 28% would be classified as strong/violent during this period.  44 States in the US have recorded tornadoes in April since 1959.     During April since 1959 1193 deaths have been recorded from these tornadoes. April has recorded a very high number of F5 tornadoes since 1959, with an incredible 59 tornadoes that have had a track length of greater than 50 miles. Also known for many Palm Sunday outbreaks, April is a deadly month when it comes to tornadoes.  Is your family storm plan ready?

Tornado Location Beginning of April  from 1959 to 2006

To the left is a graphic of the first 11 days of April where tornadoes have occurred  by location from 1959 to 2006.  You can see early April can be a busy time for tornadoes across the US.  Historical information like this is a good starting point in determining where tornadoes are likely to occur when storm systems develop during early spring.

Watch these clips of a tornado on April 29th shot by Tornado Tim
Plainview Tornado Video Part 1
Plainview Tornado Video Part 2

April 3-4, 1974, a super tornado outbreak occurred and was the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history. That day an incredible six F5 tornadoes struck. Remember there are many years were no F5 tornadoes happen, so that many in one day is almost unthinkable.  Known as one of the Super Tornado Outbreaks,  148 twisters struck in that one day alone. 13 states were struck by twisters: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Also an incredible statistic was that 118 of the tornadoes had paths over a mile long.

    Just that one outbreak left tens of thousands homeless, over 6000 people injured and 330 killed so the need for help was enormous. The American Red Cross, with chapters in the states affected by the devastation, provided much of the needed assistance. Communities found help to rebuild with federal and state funds, but Xenia Ohio also found that the human spirit can be a great catalyst for bouncing back. The city setup a “Spirit of '74 Committee” that began a movement to stay and rebuild. Their courage was proudly displayed on cars around town, with a bumper sticker exclaiming, “Xenia Lives!” encouraging others to stay. In other states as well it was people coming together like this that helped most people find the strength and desire to rebuild.

   Of all my years of chasing storms and tornadoes, I still haven’t seen anything close to the April 3rd and 4th 1974 tornado outbreak. To me, it was an almost unbelievable event because of the large area it covered and because it produced that record of six F5 tornadoes. Remember, most years a storm chaser doesn’t see even one F5 tornado. Many of the storms topped 60,000 feet in height and built so fast weather experts still talk about it to this day with awe.

   At the time the National Weather Service offices were using radar that limited their view of the storms, leaving them with looking for a tornado signature called a hook echo. The warnings were then sent by teletype where the warning had to be manually punched onto a paper punch tape which was then manually fed thru a reader. Those with teletype readers in other locations, such as TV and radio stations would then get these warnings and finally pass them onto their viewers/listeners. This system limited how fast the warnings could be sent out and the system ran into a bottle neck from the shear number of warnings, limiting how much information was able to be transmitted before the tornadoes hit. Even with the limited warning system at that time, more people could have died during this outbreak, but because of tornadoes that happened a few days earlier, people were more on guard during this outbreak then they might otherwise have been.
      Today, due to great advancements in technology we have new ways to track storms. Tools such as Doppler radar allow us to see storm rotation early on giving us faster and more precise warnings. We are also able to send warnings by TV, Radio, Cell Phone, and the internet within minutes of the first detection making rapid warnings easy for people to obtain.
       Researchers, scientists, and inventors are vital in making our warning systems even better and saving more lives in the future. With the incredible advances in tornado warnings and the knowledge we have made since 1974, I can only imagine how fantastic the advances in the future will be.

     The Palm Sunday outbreak of April 11, 1965, spawned 31 tornadoes, which had paths totaling 853 miles, and killed 256. 

And more recently April 19, 1996 tornadoes racked across Illinois with more than 30 tornadoes in that state on that one day alone. 

People in Nashville Tennessee may remember the tornadoes that ripped through the city on April 16, 1998, with 3 tornadoes touched down in Nashville. One tornado touched down near the intersection of Charlotte Pike and Forty-sixth Avenue and traveled through the downtown area and was rated an F3. That same year Birmingham, Alabama was hit with an F5 tornado on April 8th killing 32 people carving a 31 mile path over the landscape.

April 10, 1979 Tornadoes killed 53 in Texas and 3 in Oklahoma known as the Red River Valley Outbreak.  3 of the main storms in the Red River Valley outbreak were very large tornadoes lasting for an hour or more and left a continuous track of ground damage 35 miles or longer.

Then who can forget the F5 tornado that struck Monday 29 April 2002 that hit La Plata, Maryland causing extensive damage and reminding us tornadoes happen all over the US, not just in the areas known as tornado alley. No one should be too surprised if a tornado heads in your area during April.

As you can tell, April historically has been a dangerous month for tornadoes.

April 2, 2006 Storm Damage Surveys and Survey Photos