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Killer tornadoes

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If lightning can't strike twice in the same place, apparently tornadoes can. On Monday, May 20, 2013, Moore, Oklahoma experienced its second deadly tornado. The first slammed the region in May 1999. According to the National Weather Service, the 2013 tornado's wind speeds exceeded 200 mph and was at least half of a mile wide. (In 1999, wind speeds were clocked at 300 mph.)

Tornado season has those in living in North America's "Tornado Alley" heading for safe shelter and praying that the storm will pass without touching down.

"Tornado alley" is a term used to describe the area of the U.S. between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas are usually hardest hit, but killer tornadoes do occur in states outside of Tornado Alley.

It was once thought that twisters only touched down in rural areas. But the Salt Lake City, Utah tornado of 1999 disproved such a theory. It was also an unusual part of the country for a cyclone to touch down.

In 1953 another tornado hit outside of Tornado Alley in Flint, Michigan killing 116. One day later, from the same storm, a massive F4 tornado stayed on the ground for an hour and a half in Worcester, Massachusetts, injuring 1300 and killing 95.

This 1-mile wide tornado traveled 46 miles to Worcester, Massachusetts and Damage was phenomenal. Debris was thrown as far as 110 miles away and 10,000 people were left homeless. This tornado outside of tornado alley, proved again that tornadoes can and will occur anywhere.

The deadliest tornado, struck the U.S. on March 18, 1925, and killed 695 people in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

Click through the list for aftermath pictures of killer tornadoes.

Survivor
Survivor Getty Images

Survivor

Kasey Clark sorts through the debris of her grandmother-in-law Thelma Cox's mobile home after it was destroyed by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19-20, killing and injuring many and destroying countless homes.

Shawnee, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013
Shawnee, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013 Brett Deering/Getty Images

Shawnee, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013

A home sits damaged after a tornado moved through the area May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornadoes moved across central Oklahoma May 19 and 20, killing and injuring many.

Tornado destroys garage
Tornado destroys garage Brett Deering/Getty Images

Tornado destroys garage

Lonnie Langston talks about his garage that was swept off the concrete pad next to his house by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornadoes moved across central Oklahoma May 19 and 20 and the death toll rises as rescue workers and survivors search through debris.

All gone--nothing left
All gone--nothing left Getty Images

All gone--nothing left

Helpers help with cleanup of Tom and Ronda Clark's property after it was damaged by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornadoes moved across central Oklahoma May 19 and 20, killing and injuring more than 37 including children attending school.

Tin like laundry hanging from electric wire
Tin like laundry hanging from electric wire Brett Deering/Getty Images

Tin like laundry hanging from electric wire

A piece of corrugated tin is left draped over a power line after a tornado ripped through Oklahoma. A series of tornadoes moved across central Oklahoma May 19 and 20, killing and injuring many. Homes, businesses, buildings and schools were completely destroyed. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) 

Pers. Obama greets survivors in Joplin
Pers. Obama greets survivors in Joplin Wikimedia Commons

Pers. Obama greets survivors in Joplin

The tornado in Joplin Missouri on May 22, 2011, killed 161 people and left thousands homeless. 944 pets were rescued and nearly 300 were reunited with their owners.

The track of the 1953 tornado in Michigan
The track of the 1953 tornado in Michigan Wikimedia Commons

The track of the 1953 tornado in Michigan

The tornado now known as the Flint-Beecher tornado touched down on June 8, 1953 was the deadliest storm up to that date. Congressmen wondered if the storm had been caused by nuclear testing in the upper atmosphere. It killed 116 people. Papers from Flint, Michigan were swept as far as Ontario, Canada.

 

 

 

Joplin, Missouri aftermath
Joplin, Missouri aftermath Wikimedia Commons

Joplin, Missouri aftermath

158 people were killed in the catastrophic EF5 multiple-vortex tornado in Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011. The nearly mile-wide tornado produced 200 MPH winds caused over $2.8 billion dollars in damages. It was the seventh deadliest tornado in U.S. history and the most expensive.

 

Remains recovered in rubble
Remains recovered in rubble Wikimedia Commons

Remains recovered in rubble

146 sets of remains were recovered from the rubble. Remarkably, 134 victims were identified within days. However, some victims suffered such horrific injuries, different sets of remains were found to be from a single person. Six people died when St. John's Hospital was struck. These patients needed ventilators to live and when the power went out the backup generator did not work. One hospital visitor was also killed.

 

F2-F3 funnel
F2-F3 funnel Wikimedia Commons

F2-F3 funnel

The funnel of a tornado is the thin tube that reaches from the cloud to the ground. The dust cloud at the bottom is caused by strong winds on the surface of the earth. The wind caused by a tornado is much wider than the funnel.

Nothing left behind
Nothing left behind Wikimedia Commons

Nothing left behind

Scientists still debate whether or not a separate touchdown of the same funnel constitutes separate tornadoes. For those in its path the argument is irrelevant. Tornadoes are destructive killers, leaving thousands mourning and homeless year after year.

 

St. John's Hospital in ruins
St. John's Hospital in ruins Wikimedia Commons

St. John's Hospital in ruins

The tornado that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011 left St. John's Hospital seriously damaged and four people dead. One of the hospital's towers was rotated four inches on its foundation. The hospital was declared structurally unsafe and had to be demolished.

 

St. Louis Tornado in 1896
St. Louis Tornado in 1896 Wikimedia Commons

St. Louis Tornado in 1896

On May 27, 1996, St. Louis was hist by a tornado outbreak that began in the central U.S. and traveled east. It caused over $10 million in damage in 1896 dollars. In today's dollars: $360,000,000 dollars in damage. 255 people were killed.

 

Tri-state tornado: Griffin, Indiana
Tri-state tornado: Griffin, Indiana Wikimedia Commons

Tri-state tornado: Griffin, Indiana

The massive Tri-State Tornado killed 695 people on Wednesday, March 18, 1925. It is the deadliest tornado in U.S. history and left a 219 mile track making it the longest ever recorded in the world. It traveled from Missouri, through Illinois and into Indiana and completely destroyed Griffin and the surrounding rural areas. In Indiana alone 71 people were killed.

1953, Beecher, Michigan
1953, Beecher, Michigan Wikimedia Commons

1953, Beecher, Michigan

The tornado that hit the Flint, Michigan area in 1953, completely destroyed the town of Beecher, Michigan. The F5 tornado leveled strong frame houses, ripping them from their foundations. Trees were debarked, and vehicles thrown more than 100 meters from wind speeds of 261-318 MPH. Damages of $19 million in 1953 dollars (about $166 million in 2013) occurred along a 27 mile path.

 

 

An F4 near Eerie, Michigan
An F4 near Eerie, Michigan Wikimedia Commons

An F4 near Eerie, Michigan

On June 8-9, 1953, the deadly Flint–Worcester Tornadoes caused U.S. congress to question whether or not upper atmosphere atomic testing had caused the storm system that swept through the eastern U.S. The Worcester tornado was massive and traveled 46 miles, staying on the ground an hour and a half.

Salt Lake City, Utah, 1999
Salt Lake City, Utah, 1999 Wikimedia Commons

Salt Lake City, Utah, 1999

The very rare 1999 tornado that touched down in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah on August 11 occurred during an unusually strong summer monsoon season. More than 120 homes were damaged and 34 were destroyed. A tornado had not been known to hit a downtown district before, and hit buildings more than 500 feet tall. It also happened in an area of the country where tornadoes are rare. People could hear the sound of the tornado moving between the tall glass buildings and the implosion of the windows. It caused more than $170 million in damage in 1999 U.S. dollars. (Today's dollars: about $240 million.)

Greensburg, Kansas
Greensburg, Kansas Wikimedia Commons

Greensburg, Kansas

In May 2007, 95% of Greensburg, Kansas was flattened by the first tornado to be rated an EF5. The city's water tower was toppled and smashed, and the world's largest hand dug well's visitor center was completely destroyed.

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