1999 Tornado Outbreaks
Some Significant Tornadoes
Major Cities Recently Struck by Tornadoes
Oklahoma City, OK, May 3, 1999: On Monday evening, May 3, a
long track F5, violent tornado traveled from near Chickasha,
Oklahoma, to just east of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Along its
path this tornado produced areas of F5 damage to both rural sections
of central Oklahoma as well as densely populated areas of Oklahoma
City and its suburbs. In the wake of this single tornado, there
were 42 people left dead, several hundred injured and over 1
billion dollars in damage.
Wichita, KS, May 3, 1999
Another violent tornado, rated F4 intensity, plowed through Haysville
in suburban Wichita, Kansas, shortly after the Oklahoma City
tornado. This tornado was responsible for 6 deaths, 150 injuries
and over 140 million dollars in damage. While these two tornadoes
received the greatest attention, they were just two of a rare
and significant outbreak of violent tornadoes. Almost 70 tornadoes,
many of them rated F3 or stronger, were spawned by a dozen supercell
thunderstorms across Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
Little Rock, AR, Jan 21, 1999
F3, 3 fatalities. There were 63 tornadoes statewide that
day in Arkansas, which is three times the average tornadoes per
Nashville, TN, April 16, 1998
F3, 1 fatality, 60 injuries, 100 million dollars in damage.
This tornado struck downtown Nashville.
Birmingham, AL, April 8, 1998
F5, 33 fatalities, over 258 injuries, 202 million dollars
in damage. This tornado struck about two miles away from downtown.
Miami, FL, May 12, 1997
F1, no fatalities, 12 injuries, 525 thousand dollars in damage.
A very dramatic tornado which struck very near downtown Miami
and lasted for about 15 minutes.
Deadliest The Tri-State Tornado Outbreak
of March 18, 1925 killed 689 people in Missouri, Illinois and
Indiana. Murphrysboro, Ill., had 234 of those deaths, and West
Frankfort, Ill., had 127.
Other deadly tornadoes include
the May 6, 1840 tornado which killed 317 people in Natchez, Mississippi;
the May 27, 1896, tornado which killed 255 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Tornadoes on successive days in 1936 killed 216 people in Tupelo,
Mississippi, on April 5; and 203 people in Gainesville, Georgia,
on April 6.
Biggest, Costliest Outbreaks The April 3-4, 1974 Super Outbreak
was the largest known outbreak, with 148 tornadoes in 11 states,
killing 315 people, injuring more than 5,300 and causing $600
million in damages. Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio were the states
hardest hit. Perhaps the most notable tornado of the outbreak
was one which touched down southwest of Xenia, Ohio. The violent
tornado destroyed half the town, killing 34 and causing property
damages of more than $100 million.
The second most devastating outbreak
of tornadoes of modern record was the 1965 Palm Sunday outbreak.
Severe thunderstorms in the Upper Midwest spawned a total of
51 tornadoes within twelve hours. Indiana, Ohio and Michigan
were hardest hit. The tornadoes killed 256 people and caused
more than $200 million in damages. Two powerful tornadoes, about
30 minutes apart in time, traveled nearly identical paths across
Branch, Hilsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties in extreme south
central and southeastern Lower Michigan. The tornadoes killed
44, and caused more than $32 million in damages to those areas.
In Lenawee County, the damage path was up to four miles in width.
For lists of other deadly and
destructive U.S. tornadoes, refer to the following Internet site:
Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year. In the southern
states, peak tornado occurrence is in March through May, while
peak months in the northern states are during the summer. Tornadoes
are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m. but have been known
to occur at all hours of the day or night.
Watches versus Warnings
Many people confuse the meaning of a tornado "watch"
and tornado "warning" issued by the National Weather
Service. Here's the difference:
Watch: tornadoes are possible in your area; remain alert
for approaching storms.
Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather
radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky
becomes threatening, move to your pre- designated place of safety.
Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale
Category F0: Gale tornado (40-72 mph); light damage. Some damage
to chimneys; break branches off trees; push over shallow-rooted
trees; damage to sign boards.
Category F1: Moderate tornado
(73-112 mph); moderate damage. The lower limit is the beginning
of hurricane wind speed; peel surface off roofs; mobile homes
pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off
Category F2: Significant tornado
(113-157 mph); considerable damage. roofs torn off frame houses;
mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped
or uprooted; light-object missiles generated.
Category F3: Severe tornado (158-206
mph); Severe damage. Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed
houses; trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted; heavy
cars lifted off ground and thrown.
Category F4: Devastating tornado
(207-260 mph); Devastating damage. Well- constructed houses leveled;
structure with weak foundation blown off some distance; cars
thrown and large missiles generated.
Category F5: Incredible tornado
(261-318 mph); Incredible damage. Strong frame houses lifted
off foundations and carried considerable distance to disintegrate;
automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100
yards; trees debarked; incredible phenomena will occur.
Safety and Preparedness
It is important to remain alert to signs of an approaching tornado
and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist. Look for environmental
clues including a dark sky, large hail or a loud roar.
If a warning is issued, move
to a pre-designated shelter such as a basement; stay away from
windows; get out of automobiles and lie flat in a ditch or depression;
do not try to outrun a tornado in your car.
More information on tornadoes
and severe weather is available on the Internet:
NOAA's Storm Prediction Center:
Tornadoes...Nature's Most Violent
Vortex: Unraveling the Secrets: