Quad-State Tornadoes Likely Among Deadliest in U.S. History

The tornadoes that swept across multiple states in the Ohio River Valley on Friday left at least 70 dead, though fears are that the death toll could rise well above 100, making the current twister outbreak likely among America’s most deadly.

The nation has seen 25 tornadoes that killed 80 or more people since 1840, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These are the 10 deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history:

  1. March 18, 1925: The Tri-State Tornado killed nearly 700 in Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana.
  2. May 6, 1840: The Great Natchez Tornado in Mississippi killed 317.
  3. May 27, 1896: St. Louis area tornadoes killed 305 in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky.
  4. April 5, 1936: Tupelo, Miss. tornado killed 216.
  5. April 6, 1936: Gainsville, Ga., tornado killed 203.
  6. April 9, 1947: Woodward, Okla., tornado killed 181.
  7. May 22, 2011: Joplin, Mo. tornado killed 158.
  8. April 24, 1908: Tornado in Louisiana and Mississippi killed 143.
  9. June 12, 1899: Western Wisconsin tornado killed 117.
  10. June 8, 1953: Flint, Mich., tornado killed 116.

short video taken Saturday morning by a local motorist provides a close glimpse of the horrifying aftermath of the tornadoes.

“Yeah, Mayfield needs some prayers,” Ryan Mitchum said as he drove through the Kentucky town of 10,000 that was almost entirely flattened by the massive storms.

The death toll of Friday’s storm is expected to rise as assessments are done along the various twisters’ paths, which stretch for hundreds of miles through the Mississippi Valley from Arkansas into Kentucky.

Two main search-and-rescue operations took place at a candle factory in Mayfield with over 100 workers and an Amazon warehouse in southwest Illinois, where at least two workers died.

Deaths were also reported in Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee.

In all, more than 30 tornadoes were reported from the rare burst of heavy activity for mid-December. Damage assessments are underway to enable the National Weather Service to determine the strength of the storms.

I spoke to two long-time Paducah, Ky. residents Saturday evening who speculated that the storm was about a mile wide, and since it reached winds between 165 and 200 mph, it would be classified an EF4, though if it’s eventually registered or over 200 mph, it’ll make an EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

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