This is the fourth part of five in my ranking of the top 25 tornadoes of the EF scale era.
10. Parkersburg, IA – May 25, 2008 (EF5 rating) Path 41 miles; Maximum Width 1.2 miles; 9 Fatalities; 70 Injuries
This monster tornado was part of a multi-day tornado outbreak from May 22-25, 2008 – just two weeks after the Picher tornado event ranked #11. 143 tornadoes resulted in 13 fatalities, nine from this tornado. Touching down just before 5pm, the tornado struck the southern part of the city, destroying many homes, businesses, two banks and a high school. A surveillance camera in one bank captured the storm’s fury as it tears apart the structure. Extreme damage included a well-constructed metal frame industrial building where metal beams were mangled in some cases sheared off at their base – seven were killed in Parkersburg. After exiting Parkersburg, the tornado struck neighboring New Hartford, where more EF5 damage was also noted as homes were destroyed and vehicles thrown great distances and torn apart. Two more people were killed in New Hartford. The video below, at the 7:20 mark, shows an example of the extreme damage from this tornado – considered by many among the most powerful tornadoes in recent history.
9. Smithville, MS – April 27, 2011 (EF5 rating) Path 37.1 miles; Maximum Width .75 miles; 23 Fatalities; 137 Injuries
Yet another of the 2011 Super Outbreak tornadoes – I ranked this one the 3rd most impressive of the outbreak – but many argue the severity of the damage from this tornado, much like Parkersburg, is as violent as any in recent history. Extreme damage included a brick funeral home reduced to a bare slab, a concrete foundation slab pulled up and dislodged at one residence, and an SUV thrown 1/2 mile into the Smithville water tower, bouncing off, and hurled an additional 1/4 mile! The video below shows the incredible motion and speed of this tornado, the pictures show the above-mentioned slab and SUV. 16 were killed in Smithville and an additional seven were killed in Shottsville, AL where damage was rated at high-EF3 level.
8. Greensburg, KS – May 4, 2007 (EF5 rating) Path 28.8 miles; Maximum Width 1.7 miles; 11 Fatalities; 63 Injuries
The first tornado to be rated EF5 on the new scale, also the first F5/EF5 tornado since the May 3, 1999 Bridge Creek-Moore, OK tornado, an unusually long eight year period without an F5/EF5 rated tornado. While the Friday night forecast was fairly high for severe weather – moderate risk with 15% tornado probabilities – it was the Saturday forecast that was higher risk and a probable large tornado outbreak in the area. This impressive supercell, beginning in Clark County, OK would produce 22 tornadoes on Friday night! The massive tornado approached Greensburg just before 10pm at a slow rate as sunlight faded, and initially looked as if it might be a near-miss on the cities southeast corner, but the tornado began to occlude, turning back northwest, striking the city very nearly straight on and inflicting massive damage and 11 fatalities in Greensburg. Three more large tornadoes would touch down in Kansas as this supercell moved northeast, killing two additional people. The damage in Greensburg may not have been quite as extreme as others on this list, but it likely reached maximum strength before hitting the city. Over 80 tornadoes would be reported on Saturday, May 5 in Kansas – some in the same area – but none were particularly significant or destructive.
7. Atkins-Clinton, AR – February 5, 2008 (EF4 rating) Path 121.8 miles; Maximum Width .75 miles; 13 Fatalities; 139 Injuries
Somewhat forgotten after the incredible 2011 Super Outbreak, the 2008 “Super Tuesday” Outbreak remains a historic outbreak of it’s own, with 57 fatalities the most in one day or one outbreak in the USA since May 31, 1985. Dubbed the Super Tuesday Outbreak because primary elections were taking place across many states that day, this high risk forecast produced 87 tornadoes on the night of February 5 and the morning of February 6, somewhat earlier in the year than peak tornado season typically. The most impressive of these tornadoes was this EF4 that touched down just before sunset in central Arkansas, leaving a path of destruction well over 100 miles and killing 13. Four other tornadoes from this event were rated EF4, but the largest number of fatalities came from an EF3 that touched down northeast of Nashville, Tennessee leaving 22 dead along it’s 51 mile path.
6. Moore, OK – May 20, 2013 (EF5 rating) Path 17 miles; Maximum Width 1.3 miles; 24 Fatalities; 212 Injuries
Residents of Moore, OK – hit hard by a historic F5 back on May 3, 1999 – probably didn’t expect to be hit by another F5/EF5 tornado, but this tornado enhanced the reputation for the Oklahoma City area as being possibly the most tornado-prone region on earth – especially if also taking into account the El Reno area. Moore has also had near or partial strikes from F4/EF4 tornadoes in 2003 and 2010. EF4 tornadoes struck on May 18 in Kansas and May 19 in Shawnee, OK, but were not nearly as destructive as the May 20 Moore tornado. Touching down at 2:56 and covered by multiple local channels on live TV, the tornado grinded slowly for 17 miles in 37 minutes, causing destruction just as extreme as the May 3, 1999 tornado – striking a pair of elementary schools (killing seven at Plaza Towers Elementary) – and killing 24 people total (injuring over 200). At a cost of two billion dollars in damage, this is the third most expensive tornado in U.S. history, coming in just ahead of the 1999 Bridge Creek-Moore tornado – but some exceptional and historic tornadoes keep it just outside of the top five.
***Sources include ExtremePlanet.me, Wikipedia, spc.noaa.gov, YouTube (StormChasingVideo), YouTube (surveyormike1), YouTube (StormSpotterMike).