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Top 5 Most Destructive Tornadoes in American History

5.) The Great Natchez Tornado of 1840

This number 5 destructive tornado formed in southern Concordia Parish in Louisiana. The storm left a trail of destruction twenty miles long, leaving more than 300 people dead and many more injured. The storm was preceded by storms leaving three inches of rain with deadly lightening, already weakening the area. The following day another wretched afternoon thunderstorm arose. This one brought more than the area could have predicted. The mile-wide tornado began to form over the Deer Park and Solcum area of Concordia Parish. The sound of the devastating storm approaching could be heard for miles as it uprooted massive trees and split branches. Debris began to fill the sky, tossing flat boats into the air as well as other debris and water as the tornado continued down its trail following along the Mississippi River.

During this time there were no two-way radios or phones, leaving no way to communicate the storm that was about to slam into innocent victims of Natchez and Vidalia Bank. A witness stated that the air was black with debris as the storm reached the town, destroying homes, stores, and vessels. Houses were splitting open under the pressure of the storm. A piece of a steamboat was reported to have traveled thirty miles by the storm. The storm is estimated today to have been an F6, the highest rating a tornado can be, causing massive destruction with winds 319-379 mph. The final estimated death toll was 317 which far outweighed the injured 109 people. The storm caused $1,269,000 dollars in damage in 1840. This would be equal to $21 million today. This storm is known in history as the second deadliest storm in the USA to date.

4.) The Gainesville Tornado of 1936

The Gainesville Tornado struck Gainesville, Georgia, on the morning of April 6, 1936. Eye witnesses reported seeing two funnel clouds merge into one in the southwest. The storms traveled in to downtown Gainesville causing massive damage to the city. It traveled east through the city destroying the business, governmental, and several residential portions of the city. More than 500 homes were destroyed by the storm and nearly 750 damaged. The storm left more than 200 casualties.

3.) The Waco Texas Tornado of 1953

The Waco Tornado of 1953 struck on May 11 at 4:36 p.m. Unsuspecting workers were preparing to leave work as a tornado two city blocks wide began to form. People were quickly crammed into basements and safe areas in the office buildings trying to escape the storm. The buildings were not sturdy enough for such a massive storm collision. Only one building was able to survive the blow of the storm. The ALICO building was the newest building in town and was the first to contain steel reinforcements.

Over 114 people died in the storm and almost 600 people were injured. The storm hit with such force that a car was crushed in the street to only 18 inches tall. Five feet of dust, brick and other debris littered the city streets from all the collapsed city buildings. Some survivors were buried in the rubble for fourteen hours as rescuers tried to uncover them. The storm caused $41.2 million in property damage, completely destroying 196 businesses and factories in the town. The tornado remains tied with the tornado of Goliad in 1902 as the deadliest in Texas history.

2.) The Lubbock Texas Tornado of 1970

The Lubbock Tornado struck on May 11, 1970, around 8:10 a.m. An off-duty police officer spotted the formation of a funnel cloud on the eastern side of the city with grapefruit size hail. A tornado actually formed and touched down in a smaller city seven miles out of Lubbock first but was minimal populated and left minimal damage. Although the initial tornado dissipated, the hail persisted. Around 9:15, tornado sirens began to sound, and by 9:30, baseball size hail was now falling in the northeastern portion of Lubbock. A second tornado that was much larger formed around 9:35. It touched down near the campus of Texas Tech University and began to head northeast. The storm was leaving a devastating trail of destruction nearly two miles wide through the heart of the city. It traveled through numerous heavily populated residential areas and downtown, slowly veering towards the airport and on into Abernathy and New Deal. The tornado finally dissipated around 10:10 near Petersburg.

The storm left an area as large as twenty-five square miles, or a quarter of Lubbock, destroyed. It destroyed 430 homes, majorly damaging 519, and damaged a total of 7,851 homes, as well as numerous downtown apartment complexes and business. The final death toll was twenty-six, with over 500 injuries.

1.) The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

This tornado is still classified as the worst storm in U.S. history to date. On March 18 around 1:00 p.m., the storm touched down over the southeastern portion of Missouri, moving north. The storm traveled toward Illinois as it grew considerably the entire three hours the tornado was on the ground. The tornado jumped the Mississippi River and traveled across the southern portion of Illinois and into Indiana. It shattered several small mining towns that had built up in its path before hitting Illinois the hardest. Illinois alone lost 540 people, destroying the entire town of Murphysboro. In De Soto the tornado destroyed a school, killing more than thirty students and teachers. A total of 690 were killed from all three states, and over 2,000 were injured. The damages where estimated to be $18 million back in 1925, which would be much larger today economically.

Despite the storm occurring before we had weather observation on a normal basis, several extraordinary things are known about this storm making it so memorable. The storm had ground speeds that averaged 62 mph and possibly accelerated over 70 mph. The storm had the longest land track of any tornado in U.S. history, spanning 219 miles long and has since been classified as an F5 tornado.

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