Tornado Super Outbreak Spawned 360 Tornadoes in One Day

A Massive Tornado Twisting Through a Rural Landscape

Tornado Super Outbreak Spawned 360 Tornadoes in One Day

Could you imagine a tornado super outbreak? Tornado outbreaks are nothing new, especially for residents of the Midwest. However, one super outbreak in 2011 took the cake regarding absolute terror in the form of a storm. It certainly is worth a look to see the scope of such a massive storm system.

A Path of Destruction

tornado super outbreak
You can get a feel for just how massive these storms were from the satellite imagery.
©NASA image courtesy the GOES Project Science team / Public domain - Original / License

The 2011 Tornado Super Outbreak was like nothing seen before. The storm system encompassed massive chunks of the United States. Affected regions include the South, Midwest, and Northeast. 21 states would see tornadoes touch down, with some states bearing the brunt more than others.

The Formation of a Super Storm

tornado super outbreak
The pink in the center of the map is where the storms hit the hardest.

As with any tornado super outbreak, the 2011 event had some common elements. Low-pressure zones created the perfect conditions for one of the biggest storm systems in recorded history. Subsequently, the SPC, or Storm Prediction Center, warned of severe weather risks on April 25th, 2011.

April 25, 2011

tornado super outbreak
Scoured ground was a common sight to see in the aftermath of the storms.

The tornado super outbreak touched down on April 25th, 2011. That certainly fulfilled the notion of severe weather risks. However, 42 tornadoes would rip through the United States rather than severe thunderstorms.

Three Days of Devastation

tornado super outbreak
Red dots signify confirmed tornadoes, with nearly 300 reported by the 27th of April.
©Storm Prediction Center of the US National Weather Service / Public domain - Original / License

Three days of raging storms, from April 25th to April 28th, saw tornadoes rip through the United States. Some states were more affected than others, like Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama among others. That said, nearly half of the contiguous United States would be affected by the tornado super outbreak.

The Storm of a Century

tornado super outbreak
This mobile home was destroyed outright, others were pitched more than 50 feet away.

Storms like this are a rare occurrence. The last one in recorded history of a similar magnitude was the Tri-State tornado super outbreak. However, as you’ll soon discover, however, that one pales in comparison to the one which touched down in 2011.

Afternoon Supercells

2011 storm system
Homes were outright destroyed and swept away by the strongest of the storms.
© National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi. / Public domain - Original / License

The afternoon of April 27th, 2011 saw the most intense supercells seen throughout the storm system. The vast majority of the tornadoes that emerged during the tornado super outbreak occurred on the 27th. As if the cyclones weren’t enough, flooding got up to around 2 feet in depth.

The Impact

2011 storm system
This destroyed home lost all 5 of its residents in a moment.
© National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Public domain - Original / License

The 2011 tornado super outbreak is the costliest one on record. Given the sheer scope and scale of the system, that isn’t hard to imagine. In total, over $10 billion in damages across the United States were reported. Further, some of the tornadoes were so violent they were ripping pavement off the roads.


2011 storm system
Massive damage resulted in billions of dollars lost.

Sadly, the loss of life from this tornado super outbreak is among the highest in United States history. Before all was said and done, 324 people would perish. While that isn’t accounting for those lost in rubble or who simply were never found.

Other Effects of the Tornado Super Outbreak

2011 storm system
This entire neighborhood was leveled by a vicious tornado, subsequently, many deaths would be reported.

In the aftermath of such a massive storm, the loss of infrastructure and essential services is felt. Six states would declare states of emergency, with Alabama bearing the brunt of the fatalities and damage. Further, 2,000 National Guard troops would be deployed to aid in finding survivors.

Confirmed Tornadoes

2011 storm system
Images of devastation would be common in the coming days after the storms passed.
© National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / CC0 - Original / License

Over three days, 360 tornadoes would arrive and touch down across the United States. The harshest day was the 27th of April, which saw 216 tornadoes alone, with at least 4 confirmed EF5 cyclones. However, the vast majority of deaths occurred on the 27th, which isn’t a shock given how massive the supercells were.

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