The Associated Press and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency report that the death toll from Sunday and Monday’s tornado outbreak has risen to 36. Following a devastating tornado in Cookeville, Tenn., a twister that struck Nashville, and a number of other tornadoes, a total of 69 tornado fatalities have occurred in the United States so far in 2020. This is tied with 2012 and is the highest death toll at this point in the year since 2011.
That’s more than occurred during 16 of the past 20 years. Last year was a record low year for tornado deaths, with only 10 recorded. Maryland sustained the most tornado deaths in the nation in 2018, when two were killed in a warehouse as an EF1 tornado hit Baltimore without warning on Nov. 2.
There have been far deadlier years than this, however. A total of 553 people perished from swarms of tornadoes in 2011, one of the highest death tolls in one of the most active years on record. Many of those fatalities came from high-end tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., Tuscaloosa, Ala., Phil Campbell, Ala., and from a seemingly endless number of other killer twisters.
On March 18, 1925, an onslaught of two or three violent, long-track tornadoes killed 695 people along a 235-mile path through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
The number of tornadoes that occurred on Sunday and Monday stands at 105. More tornadoes may be confirmed by National Weather Service storm survey teams still investigating damage.
Of the twisters, 30 were rated “significant,” with winds over 111 mph. Alabama saw the most tornadoes, as 21 touched down. Next came Georgia with 20 twisters, followed by South Carolina with 16. Three reached EF4 strength in Mississippi.
The total combined path length of the tornadoes that occurred. The longest individual path — 82.61 miles — came from an EF3 tornado in eastern Mississippi that devastated regions just a few miles away from the massive EF4 that struck Soso, Laurel, Moss and Bassfield.
The strongest winds that were estimated in any of the tornadoes as of Thursday morning reached 190 mph east-northeast of Bassfield, Miss. The long-track EF4 tornado that struck Moss, Miss., was estimated to have produce winds up to that speed based on damage to a neighborhood surveyed by the National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss.
Winds of 170 mph were deemed responsible for obliterating the First Baptist Church in Moss.
The possible minimum distance between the two damage paths left from a pair of strong to violent long-track tornadoes that ravaged much of Southeastern Mississippi on Sunday was 3.88 miles. Preliminary estimates suggest that the enormous two-mile-wide EF4 behemoth that struck Moss, Soso and Bassfield, Miss., was flanked by its mile-wide EF3 counterpart, with a path at times less than four miles to the north.
The diameter of enormous hail that fell in Del Rio, Tex., on Saturday, April 11, as the outbreak kicked off was put at four inches. A supercell thunderstorm developed near Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and crossed the border into Val Verde and Kinney counties in southern Texas. Softball-sized hail pelted the city at 8:30 p.m.
718 storm reports
The number of filtered storm reports received by the National Weather Service from 8 a.m. Eastern time Sunday to 8 a.m. ET Monday was 718. That included 118 preliminary tornado reports, 564 reports of wind damage and a handful of instances of hail. This was the greatest total of wind damage reports on a single day since the 2012 derecho event.
Tornadoes peppered the map, but consistently touched down in a swath roughly 600 miles long stretching from near Tyler, Tex., to east of Chattanooga, Tenn. That was where a localized “mesoscale convective vortex,” akin to a miniature low-pressure system, enhanced storm dynamics and enhanced severe weather.
The strongest straight-line winds that occurred with storms produced by the outbreak reached an estimated 110 mph. The National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., confirmed a macroburst — a large microburst that causes damage in a swath larger than 2.5 miles in width — produced winds of 65 to 85 mph in Marlboro County, S.C.
A few locations near the community of Wallace likely experienced wind gusts up to 110 mph, which blew the roofs off several homes and even flipped an unanchored mobile home.
7 tornado emergencies
A total of seven “tornado emergencies” were issued. The tornado emergency is one step beyond a tornado warning, issued only when a community is likely to suffer imminent destruction with the potential for significant loss of life. It was pioneered out of necessity on May 3, 1999, when an F5 tornado was barreling toward Moore, Okla., during the height of the evening commute.
Seven tornado emergencies were issued for five tornadic storms during the outbreak, including the twin massive tornadoes in Mississippi. A tornado emergency was also issued for Monroe, La., areas east of Chattanooga and Walterboro, S.C.