Tornadoes created by “severe storms researcher” (Wikipedia)

Tornadoes are a mysterious, jaw-dropping phenomenon! We all know that tornadoes can range from F0 (or EF0) to F5 (or EF5) on the Fujita Scale, a chart created by “severe storms researcher” (Wikipedia) Ted Fujita, but they can also appear in the form of an outbreak. There are similarities and differences between two well-known and deadly outbreaks: the 1974 Super Outbreak and the 2011 Super Outbreak. April 3 and 4 were truly devastating days in the year of 1974. Why was it so? Because on April 3-4, 1974, 148 tornadoes touched down in thirteen states in the United States; one tornado even touched down in Canada.

The duration of the outbreak lasted for eighteen hours. It was recorded as the second largest tornado outbreak, after the one in 2011. There were “65 tornadoes that were either F3s, F4s, or F5s” (U.S. Tornadoes).

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Tennessee received the largest amount of tornadoes, while Kentucky was placed in second. The deadliest twister of the 1974 Super Outbreak was the one that hit Xenia, Ohio. It destroyed one-fourth of the town and killed thirty-two people. Overall, the 1974 Super Outbreak left $4.5 billion in damage (Wikipedia). The tornadoes of the 1974 Super Outbreak killed over 300 people and injured nearly 5,500.

Many of the fatalities in Xenia were children. Alabama was the state with the most casualties (77). Why did so many die and/or suffer from injuries? One reason was because of the warning system. Brandenburg, Kentucky and Xenia, Ohio were few of the towns that didn’t have tornado sirens back then. Louisville, Kentucky however, was one of the few cities that had advanced warnings.

Dick Gilbert, who was a helicopter reporter for the WHAS-AM radio station, followed the tornado’s path and “gave vivid descriptions of the damage as seen from the air” (Wikipedia). After the 1974 Super Outbreak, schools and churches were instructed to create tornado drills and teach children what to do during a tornado watch or warning. Multiple towns and cities also built in tornado sirens. However, the 1974 Super Outbreak was nothing compared to how fierce the 2011 Super Outbreak was. On April 25-28, 2011, the United States’ preparedness was tested by another massive, deadly tornado outbreak that swept through the Southern, Midwestern, and Eastern states. The outbreak featured over 350 tornadoes and left “approximately $11 billion” in damage cost (Wikipedia).

2011 featured The duration of the outbreak was three days; it even had 37 tornadoes that were ranked F3 or higher (U.S. Tornadoes). Alabama received the hardest hit with 58 tornadoes. One notable tornado was the one that slashed through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama.

It was ranked as an F4 and killed 64 people. How are the Tuscaloosa and Xenia tornadoes alike? They were both multi-vortex tornadoes. Multi-vortex tornadoes “contain several vortices that collide with the main vortex” (Wikipedia). Overall, the 2011 Super Outbreak left over 320 dead and over 3100 injured. Alabama in 2011 was similar to 1974, due to it being the state with the most fatalities in both time periods (1974: 77; 2011: 238).


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