Breakdown: Why April 27, 2011 was so deadly

A look back at the storms of April 2011

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The tornado outbreak from April 25 to April 28 in 2011 was one of the deadliest and costliest events on record in the United States.

In just those four days, 324 people were killed by tornadoes with most of those being on April 27 in the state of Alabama.

THE SET-UP

The ingredients for severe weather aligned perfectly with a plume of Gulf moisture over the southeast, strong shear (change in winds with height) and high instability. A cold front provided the spark needed to create multiple severe thunderstorms that spawned 360 tornadoes. On the most deadly day on April 27, there were 216 confirmed tornadoes.

MID-SOUTH IMPACTS

There were multiple tornadoes reported in the Mid-South on April 25, 26 and 27. The strongest tornado was an EF-3 in Lafayette County, MS with 140 mph winds. There were multiple EF-0 and EF-1 tornadoes in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, including in the counties of Tippah and Alcorn in Mississippi.

Counties Start / Finish Path Length Max Width Rating Max Wind Speeds
Monroe, Itawamba, MS Highway 25 southwest of Smithville, MS to near Shottsville, AL 35.1 miles 3/4 miles EF-5 205 MPH
Calhoun, Chickasaw,
Monroe, MS
Extreme southeastern Calhoun County to County Road 69 in Chickasaw County to Highway 6 near Bigbee in Monroe County 49.9 miles 3/4 mile EF-3 150 MPH
Chickasaw,
Monroe, MS
From County Road 253 south of Tomnolen is Warren County, MS to near Highway 278 northeast of New Wren 59.9 miles 1 mile EF-3 140 MPH
Lafayette, MS County Road 378 northwest of Water Valley to County Road 273 east of Oxford 13.6 miles 1/4 mile EF-3 140 MPH
Tishomingo, MS County Road 864 southwest of Belmont to County Road 993 northeast of Belmont 9.29 miles 150 yards EF-2 125 MPH
Hardin, TN Red Sulphur Road south of Counce to Blue Herron Point near Lake Pickwick 3.85 miles 200 yards EF-2 125 MPH
Craighead, AR Highway 158 to Highway 63 near Bay, AR 0.7 miles 200 yards EF-2 115 MPH
Craighead, AR 2 miles south of Bowman, AR along County Road 683 to State Highway 18 in Bowman, AR 1.6 miles 250 yards EF-1 90 MPH
Weakley, TN 4.5 miles northeast of Martin, TN to 2.6 miles southwest of Lynnville, KY 15 miles 225 yards EF-1 100 MPH
Tallahatchie, MS Money Rd southwest of Philipp, MS to Mudline Rd Northwest of Oakland, MS 28 miles 50 yards EF-1 90 MPH
Tippah, MS About 1/4 mile west of County Road 253 to County Road 254 near the Alcorn/Tippah county line 2.13 miles 100 yards EF-1 90 MPH
Phillips, AR,
Coahoma, MS
Highway 44 near Ferguson, AR to Coahoma, MS along Old Highway 61 17.8 miles 200 yards EF-0 80 MPH
Phillips, AR,
Coahoma, MS,
Tunica, MS
1 mile north of Elaine, AR along Highway 44 to one mile east of Highway 61 near Lula, MS 21.5 miles 200 yards EF-0 75 MPH
Pontotoc, MS Endville Rd in Endville, MS to County Road 3 northeast of Endville, MS 1.02 miles 75 yards EF-0 70 MPH
Alcorn, MS Intersection of Googe St and County Road 448 east of Rienzi, MS to near County Road 430 northeast of Rienzi, MS 2.32 miles 50 yards EF-0 65 MPH
Craighead, AR 5 miles south of Jonesboro on either side of Highway 1 0.3 miles 50 yards EF-0 75 MPH
Craighead, AR 2 miles northeast of Black Oak, AR along County Road 513 to 1 mile southwest of Monette, AR along County Road 506 0.6 miles 75 yards EF-0 75 MPH
Panola, MS Began near the shore of Sardis Lake and ended over the lake N/A N/A EF-0 N/A
Union, MS Near Lyles Rd south of Looxahoma, MS to just south of Looxahoma-Tyro Rd east of Looxahoma, MS 0.5 miles N/A EF-0 70 MPH
Henderson,
Carroll, TN
From Holmes RD north of Highway 20 in Henderson County to Pecan Tree Road in Natchez Trace State Park north of I-40 17.0 miles N/A EF-0 70 MPH
Chester, TN From Sweet Lips RD south of Jacks Creek to Roby Road south of Highway 100 7.9 miles N/A EF-0 70 MPH
Hardeman, TN From Highway 138 southeast of Cloverport to Teague Road near the town of Toone 1.5 miles 200 yards EF-0 70 MPH

WHY IT WAS SO DEADLY

Although there was ample warning several days out, no one could have imagined the destruction and magnitude of these tornadoes. On the EF scale, an EF-5 is the highest and causes almost total destruction. On average, there may be one of these EF-5 tornadoes in a year. On April 27, there were four EF-5 tornadoes.

These result in nearly complete removal of buildings from the foundation. Unfortunately, the only true safe place would be in an underground storm shelter during this type of tornado. In addition, there was an early morning line of storms that knocked out power to much of the area in Alabama. Many people thought the threat was over after the morning storms and let their guard down, but the main line did not arrive until later in the afternoon. This false sense of safety mixed with the lack of available communication resulted in a deadly combination.

When there is a threat for severe weather, we always recommend having multiple ways to get weather information. Download the WMC Weather App for warnings and additional information on severe weather threats from your First Alert Weather Team.

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