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April 3, 1974 (1 Viewer)


Messages
40
Location
Town Creek, Al
86 Alabamians lost their lives on this date in 1974. This state has always had bad luck in outbreak situations. We had the most fatalities in the Super Outbreaks of 1932, 1974 and 2011. We must remain vigilant and communicate with others.
 

PerryW

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America has experienced quite a few large, widespread, and unfortunately deadly tornado outbreaks strike the USA since her inception inception before 1800, but when it comes to the sheer number of violent tornadoes, widespread coverage of violent tornadoes, and the major psychological impact the April 3, 1974 tornado swarm had on many Americans not even in states struck by tornadoes that day, it stands alone as the most memorable and impactful tornado outbreak in American history; was a true tornado Super Outbreak.



The 1974 Super Outbreak actually occurred on two days......April 3-4th, but still all the tornadoes occurred with a 24 hour period, and most within an 18 hour period (2 PM CST - 8 AM CST), as did all the 317 fatalities (309 US plus 8 who perished in a Windsor, Ontario F2).

The SuperOutbreak resulted from a very intense storm system with a very large and deep surface low pressure center that tracked from central Kansas (981 mb) to southern Iowa (985 mb) to Lake Michigan (986 mb). Very strong southerly to southwesterly winds aloft from 3000' to 39,000' feet covered the eastern portion of the US, and the pronounced veering and extreme shear caused numerous thunderstorms to rotate and produce tornadoes over a wide area from Michigan and Iliinois to Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia........with over 60 of them rated F3 or stronger, 30 rated at least F4, and 7 F5 tornadoes.

I've seen quite a few comparisms during the past several years between the April 3, 1974 and April 27, 2011 outbreaks, but when it comes to aerial coverage and number of intense tornadoes, there is no comparism. The 1974 Super Outbreak spawned an amazing 63 F3 or stronger tornadoes, from Toledo, Ohio to near Laurel, Mississippi, with F3 or stronger tornadoes occurring in 12 states.



The April 27, 2011 tornado produced only 35 tornadoes rated EF-3 or higher across 5 states (from central Mississippi to SW Virginia).



The differences when it came to violent (F4/ F5) was similar:

F4/F5 1974 (30)


EF4/EF5 2011 (15)


The biggest difference between the April 3, 1974 Tornado SuperOutbreak and other outbreaks since 1950 was the rapidity of large tornadoes occurring at the same time over many different states. Three separate intense squall lines formed around noon on April 3rd (from Virginia to north GA/ NE AL; Indiana to Tennessee; Illinois to Missouri), and during the afternoon and evening, all three began producing strong and violent tornadoes at the same time.

A close up map of the tornadoes that occurred in the southeast US on April 3, 1974 and F-Scale intensity assigned to them by Dr Theodore T. Fujita and his University Of Chicago Survey Team (Including Dr Gregory Forbes, now The Weather Channel Severe Storm Expert).



Many of the intense tornadoes during the 1974 Super Outbreak targeted the south, with violent tornadoes occurring in Alabama (including 3 F5 tornadoes/ 77 dead), Tennessee (45 dead), Georgia (17 dead), and North Carolina (7 dead; 4 of them died in a vicious F4 that struck mountainous areas around Murphy). Areas of Limestone and Madison county, Alabama were struck by two F5 tornadoes only 25 minutes apart; some areas were struck twice, making it impossible to know if they died in the first or second Tanner tornado. Etowah, Tennessee was struck twice by F3 tornadoes two hours apart. Guin, Alabama was literally levelled from the face of the earth. Dr Ted Fujita called the Guin F5 the most intense tornadoes he ever surveyed. 28 perished in a community of 250. This vicious tornado finally dissipated southwest of Decatur, AL but another large tornado (F3) soon touched down and struck downtown Huntsville where 3 died.

Another long track violent Alabama twister struck Jasper and Cullman, destroying the Walker county courthouse. In Georgia a vicious tornado touched down at 6:40 pm near Sugar Valley (Gordon county). A few moments later, the F4 monster struck Resaca killing 9 and injuring 67.......8 perished in one home. A 9 year old boy was the sole survivor of his family. A long track F2 tornado touched down in Cleburne county, Alabama and tracked 65 miles to Lake Allatoona. Two died, then 6 more were killed when the same supercell dropped twin F4's in northern Cherokee county, GA........homes obliterated near Ball Ground and Juno (Dawson county).

Many central and eastern Tennessee counties were badly damaged by strong and violent tornadoes. The deadliest killed 16 near the Alabama border north of Huntsville but numerous killer tornadoes struck the volunteer state between Nashville and Knoxville.

Farther north it was just as devastating and chaotic. Xenia, Ohio was obliterated by a late afternoon F5 tornado (36 dead). Just 45 minutes earlier another F5 struck the northern and western suburbs of Cincinatti (3 dead). Kentucky was brutalized with more than 70 deaths, 31 of them in Brandenburg F5). Six more perished in a large F4 which struck Louisville. Numerous killer tornadoes struck Kentucky......cities such as Frankfort, Richmond, and the Dale Hollow Lake area devastated.

Indiana lost 45 on April 3rd, even though most tornadoes were in daytime and seen for long distances. A long track F4 took 19 lives along a 160 mile long path which struck both Rochester and Monticello head on. Other violent tornadoes struck east of Indianapolis, and near the Ohio River where lives were lost near DePauw (F5) and from Madison....Hanover.....Several deaths occurred in east central Illinois, two in Michigan, and 8 more when the Detroit F2 tornado crossed into Windsor Ontario and destroyed a skating rink.

Even after midnight, a few more strong tornadoes and lives were lost, including the first tornado deaths in West Virginia since 1944, from a long track F3 which struck Beckley between 3-4 AM.



All this death and destruction occurred between 2 PM and 8 AM........most of it between 2 PM and midnight EDT.
 
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Messages
335
Location
Madison, WI
The comparison between 4/3/74 and 4/27/11 is fascinating to me is because the latter is the only thing we've seen since that even comes close to the former (and actually surpassed it in terms of raw numbers of tornadoes). I still agree that 4/3/74 was more remarkable for the sheer breadth of the area covered by the violent tornadoes.

As bad as 1974 was in Alabama, 2011 hit there even harder. Although 2011's outbreak officially had more tornadoes, but fewer E/F3+ ones, the 2011 storms (especially Hackleburg-Phil Campbell etc.) did more impressive feats of violent damage and over a greater length of their paths than any in 1974 except perhaps Brandenburg and Guin.

2011's surveys were a lot more exacting, so it's quite likely that some weak/brief tornadoes went uncounted in 1974. On the other hand, the more stringent implementation of the EF-scale in modern times leads me to believe that two or three of 1974's F5s would have been rated EF4 had they occurred in 2011, and vice versa for a few of 2011's EF4s in 1974 (especially Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, perhaps also Cullman, Ringgold and Cordova).

Palm Sunday 1965 is not usually considered comparable to the "Superoutbreaks" with an official total of "only" 47 tornadoes, but again there is the likelihood that many minor-impact ones were not surveyed and counted, even more so than in 1974. With 17 violent tornadoes (all F4, some of them rather inexplicably downgraded after initially being assigned F5), it actually exceeds April 27, 2011 in that category by two. It affected similar areas to the northwest part of the 1974 outbreak, but slightly further north and west. The concentrated cluster of violent tornadoes over northern Indiana, southern Michigan and northwest Ohio was comparable to that seen over northern Alabama into south-central Tennessee during both the 1974 and 2011 outbreaks.

All three outbreaks were horrific in terms of human cost, Palm Sunday would actually be the deadliest per tornado with about 85% of the fatalities of either Super Outbreak (271 divided by 320) with about 1/3 of the tornadoes (at least, officially counted) as 1974.
 

MichelleH

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288
Location
Hanceville, AL
What a wonderful write-up on this anniversary of the Super Outbreak., Perry. I was only 13 months old when it happened, but the first tornado book I ever read (and still have) when I was in 3rd grade was about the Super Outbreak. That book started my lifelong obsession with tornadoes and the Super Outbreak is still the outbreak I am most fascinated by, even though I lived through April 27, 2011 as an adult. I totally agree with you...however devastating 4/27/11 was, and it indeed was, the Super Outbreak of 1974 was far more horrific and far-reaching.
 

PerryW

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What a wonderful write-up on this anniversary of the Super Outbreak., Perry. I was only 13 months old when it happened, but the first tornado book I ever read (and still have) when I was in 3rd grade was about the Super Outbreak. That book started my lifelong obsession with tornadoes and the Super Outbreak is still the outbreak I am most fascinated by, even though I lived through April 27, 2011 as an adult. I totally agree with you...however devastating 4/27/11 was, and it indeed was, the Super Outbreak of 1974 was far more horrific and far-reaching.
Thank you Michelle! As bad as both 4/3/74 and 4/27/11 were, the 1974 was far more horrifying to me then and today. The 2011 outbreak was very bad.........but 1974 was a different animal. To imagine multiple F4 or F5 tornadoes on the ground at the same time in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, northwest Georgia, and Alabama just boggles the mind. It's a once in 500 year event I doubt any of us ever see again (just like the 1935 Labor Day hurricane......a one in 500 year freak).

It's too bad weather radar and satellite images were so inferior in 1974 compared to now. It doesn't give young people who grew up in the TWC color radar/ IR satellite loop a true feeling of just how insane it was back then. Also, with no internet ot TWC in 1974, all you could keep up with were the tornadoes in your own area. I had no idea there hasd been violent tornadoes in north Alabama until nearly midnight that night (telephone call to my great great uncle from his brother in law near Huntsville). When did I first learn about Xenia Ohio? Late the next afternoon from my aunts car radio after she picked me up from school. I didnt know about the full extent of tornadoes for weeks; until speaking with my science teachers then with meteorologists at the Atlanta NWS and WSB TV.
 

ARCC

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382
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Coosa county
I guess I'm the opposite, I see 4/27 on a completely different level than 4/3. From the "High Risk" verifying predawn squall line to its off the chart cape/helicity combo supercell outbreak. In the old F scale it wouldn't surprise me to have had 9-10 F5s. Then you have to add in the fact that the northern extent didn't verify as it could had.

Let's face it we know the strongest tornados on 4/27 hit the best built houses and slabbed neighborhoods.

From a meterological standpoint 4/27 was about the worst you could get.
 
Messages
40
Location
Town Creek, Al
A couple of ideas about the comparison. There were many more ultra-long track tornadoes in 2011 than 1974 resulting in a much greater path length for tornadoes in 2011. If the long trackers of 2011 had been broken down into shorter tornadoes, the result would have been many more EF3s and 4s in 2011. Take away the long-trackers in Alabama and the one in Indiana and you have a whole bunch of short blips in 74.

Also there wasn't the scrutiny of damage then that there is today. If there had been dozens of people at every site checking for bolts, screws, foundations etc., many of those tornadoes would have been rated at least a level lower if not more. And of course if they just eyeballed it today like they did then, I'm sure Tuscaloosa, Ringgold, probably Shoal Creek, Jackson County, and Bridgeport would have gotten an F5 back in the day while most of the experts seem to agree that Xenia, and a few more were overrated in '74.
 
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ARCC

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382
Location
Coosa county
A couple of ideas about the comparison. There were many more ultra-long track tornadoes in 2011 than 1974 resulting in a much greater path length for tornadoes in 2011. If the long trackers of 2011 had been broken down into shorter tornadoes, the result would have been many more EF3s and 4s. Take away the long-trackers in Alabama and the one in Indiana and you have a whole bunch of short blips.

Also there wasn't the scrutiny of damage then that there is today. If there had been dozens of people at every site checking for bolts, screws, foundations etc., many of those tornadoes would have been rated at least a level lower if not more. And of course if they just eyeballed it today like they did then, I'm sure Tuscaloosa, Ringgold, probably Shoal Creek, Jackson County, and Bridgeport would have gotten an F5 back in the day while most of the experts seem to agree that Xenia, and a few more were overrated in '74.
As would the Lake Martin tornado. Most people forget about it, but that thing was very voilent.
 

Lori

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I remember watching this in elementary school.Scared me then and still does.

All these years and I've never seen this....I was 7 when this happened, I lived in Talladega Co. we took shelter in my brother's closet but I don't think we knew for sure if there were warnings or not, Daddy had a radio he'd listen. I remember we didn't have school the next day...most of us had stayed up all night!!
 

Mike S

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Ironically, both the Superoutbreak of 1974 and the Superoutbreak of 2011 happened on a Wednesday.
And of course tomorrow is Wednesday.

I think there was a discussion on the old forum about how Wednesday seems to be THE day for severe weather in this area.
 

PerryW

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Yes but March 21 1932 was a Sunday. April 4, 1977 was a Tuesday afternoon. April 5-6, 1936 was a Sunday night and Monday morning. March 31, 1973 was a Saturday. May 27-28, 1973 was a Sunday evening and Monday. March 27, 1994 and March 28, 1920 were both Palm Sundays. April 20, 1920 was a very deadly tornado outbtreak in Alabama and Mississippi....also a Tuesday. One of the deadliest southern tornado outbreaks struck MS, LA, and Alabama on Friday April 24, 1908.

I've seen strong and destructive tornadoes occur on every day of the week. The fact April 3, 1974 and April 27, 2011 both happened on a Wednesday was sheer coincidence........
 
Messages
399
Location
Niagara Falls, Ontario
The 1974 Super Outbreak definitely wins in terms of scale and extent of the destruction, with tornadoes in 13 states and violent tornadoes in 12 of them. At times six or more violent tornadoes would have been on the ground at the same time. Also interesting is that there were a few "clusters" of violent tornadoes on 4/3, while the violent tornadoes on 4/27 were pretty evenly distributed.

In terms of severity, though, I think 4/27 wins out. Remember that the Enhanced Fujita scale is much stricter than the original Fujita scale. Many of the F3 and F4-rated tornadoes on 4/3 would probably only have been rated EF2 and EF3 in 2011, and I highly doubt the Daisy Hill, IN, Sayler Park, OH, and second Tanner, AL tornadoes would have been rated EF5. Xenia, maybe. The F4 Cullman, AL tornado on 4/3 in particular probably wouldn't have been rated higher than mid-range EF3 in 2011. In fact, I don't see much to suggest F4 intensity even using the criteria of the old Fujita Scale - some houses were mostly leveled, but the few damage photos show portions of interior walls still standing.

On the flip side, in 1974 several EF3 and EF4-rated tornadoes on 4/27 would almost certainly have been rated F4 and F5 in 1974. The Sawyerville, AL, Houston, MS, Hayleyville, AL, and Rabun County, GA tornadoes in particular would probably have been rated F4 in 1974, while the Tuscaloosa, AL, Ringgold, GA, Flat Rock, GA, Cullman, AL, and possibly Cordova, AL tornadoes would have probably been rated F5.
 
Messages
399
Location
Niagara Falls, Ontario
I've seen strong and destructive tornadoes occur on every day of the week. The fact April 3, 1974 and April 27, 2011 both happened on a Wednesday was sheer coincidence........
Yeah, it's purely coincidence, but a strange/interesting one...I seem to recall a graph on the old forum that showed that the greatest number of violent tornadoes touched down on Wednesdays, followed by Fridays, and I believe Mondays in third place, with over 60% of all violent tornadoes touching down on those three days.
 

Mike S

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Yeah, it's purely coincidence, but a strange/interesting one...I seem to recall a graph on the old forum that showed that the greatest number of violent tornadoes touched down on Wednesdays, followed by Fridays, and I believe Mondays in third place, with over 60% of all violent tornadoes touching down on those three days.
I guess when all is said and done there is going to be a day with a higher frequency than any other day, but it does seem odd that a particular day actually seems to stand out.
 

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