Super Outbreak

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the April 3-4, 1974, super tornado outbreak.

It was the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history with 148 twisters touching down in 13 states. Before it was over 16 hours later, 330 people were dead and 5,484 were injured in a damage path covering more than 2,500 miles.

Twenty-five years ago, National Weather Service forecasters could see only green blobs on their radar scopes and had to wait for visual confirmation of the tornado before issuing a tornado warning. Today's forecasters, thanks to a $4.5 billion weather service modernization effort, view evolving storms in graphic detail and can now issue warnings before tornadoes even form, with an average lead time of 11 minutes.

This month is the 25th anniversary of the famous "Xenia Tornado Outbreak" which occurred on April 3-4, 1974. This super outbreak spawned a total of 148 tornadoes which occurred in the 24-hour period from noon CST April 3rd to noon CST April 4th. Thirty of these tornadoes were classified as F4 or F5 on the Fujita-Pearson Tornado Scale. The combined path length of all tornadoes was 2598 miles. Additional tornadoes occurred during the night of April 2nd and during the afternoon of April 4th. Numerous hailstorms and damaging winds were also reported with this system. NOAA's Natural Disaster Survey statistics showed that there were 315 storm related fatalities, with 6142 storm related injuries; 27,590 families suffered losses, and damages were over 600 million dollars (1974 dollars).

On a mild Wednesday and Thursday, April 3 and 4, 1974, the United States experienced the biggest outbreak of tornadoes in our nation's recorded history. Meteorologists refer to this as the Superoutbreak in which 148 tornadoes swept across 13 states in roughly a 24 hour time frame.

From Illinois to North Carolina and from Michigan to Mississippi, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms killed 335 people and injured over 6,000. Over 15,000 homes, businesses and farm buildings were destroyed and another 17,000 buildings were damaged.

Indiana experienced its most devasting tornado outbreak in history. A brief tornado touchdown in Boone county the morning of April 3 was the prelude to the major outbreak. Between 220 pm EST and 800 pm EST, 20 additional tornadoes struck in 38 counties killing 47 and injuring nearly 900 with property losses for nearly 6,000 families.

The Super Outbreak is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 US states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York; and the Canadian province of Ontario. It extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles (1,440 square kilometers) along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles (4,160 km).