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Deadly United States Tornadoes

List of the Ten Most Deadly Tornadoes in the U.S. Since the 1800s



Tornado at Union City, Oklahoma - May 24, 1973

NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory
Updated July 01, 2014

Every spring in the months from April through June the Midwestern portion of the United States is hit by tornadoes. These storms occur in all of the 50 states but they are most common in the aforementioned Midwest and the states of Texas and Oklahoma in particular. The entire region where tornadoes are common is known as Tornado Alley and it stretches from northwest Texas through Oklahoma and Kansas.

Hundreds or sometimes thousands of tornadoes hit Tornado Alley and other parts of the U.S. each year. Most are weak on the Fujita Scale, occur in undeveloped areas and cause little damage. From April through late May 2011 for example there were about 1,364 tornadoes in the U.S., most of which did not cause damage. However some are very strong and are capable of killing hundreds and damaging entire towns. On May 22, 2011 for instance an EF5 tornado destroyed the town of Joplin, Missouri and killed over 100 people, making it the deadliest tornado to hit the U.S. since 1950.

The following is a list of the ten deadliest tornadoes since the 1800s:

1) Tri-State Tornado (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana)

• Death Toll: 695
• Date: March 18, 1925

2) Natchez, Mississippi

• Death Toll: 317
• Date: May 6, 1840

3) St. Louis, Missouri

• Death Toll: 255
• Date: May 27, 1896

4) Tupelo, Mississippi

• Death Toll: 216
• Date: April 5, 1936

5) Gainesville, Georgia

• Death Toll: 203
• Date: April 6, 1936

6) Woodward, Oklahoma

• Death Toll: 181
• Date: April 9, 1947

7) Joplin, Missouri

• Estimated Death Toll as of June 9, 2011: 151
• Date: May 22, 2011

8) Amite, Louisiana and Purvis, Mississippi

• Death Toll: 143
• Date: April 24, 1908

9) New Richmond, Wisconsin

• Death Toll: 117
• Date: June 12, 1899

10) Flint, Michigan

• Death Toll: 115
• Date: June 8, 1953

To learn more about tornadoes, visit the National Severe Storms Laboratory website on tornadoes.


Erdman, Jonathan. (29 May 2011). "Perspective: Deadliest Tornado Year Since 1953." The Weather Channel. Retrieved from: http://www.weather.com/outlook/weather-news/news/articles/deadly-year-tornadoes-perspective_2011-05-23

Rosenberg, Matt. (2 March 2011). "Tornado: Tornado Alley in the Midwest." Geography at About.com. Retrieved from: http://geography.about.com/od/physicalgeography/a/tornado.htm

Storm Prediction Center. (n.d.). "The 25 Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved from: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/killers.html

Weather.com and Associated Press. (29 May 2011). 2011's Tornadoes by the Numbers. Retrieved from: http://www.weather.com/outlook/weather-news/news/articles/tornado-toll_2011-05-25

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