One of the biggest tornado myths out there is that tornadoes do not hit big cities. When we hear about tornadoes, we typically see them form over rural and suburban areas. What it actually comes down to is landmass. Because the United States is more country than City. In fact, only 3 percent of the entire land area in the United States is categorized as urban. It is pretty much throwing darts at a dartboard, you aren't going to hit the middle every time. Realistically, tornadoes can happen anywhere at anytime.
Today marks the 8th anniversary of the historic 2011 super tornado outbreak. It is now the largest tornado outbreak in U.S history as there were 362 tornadoes confirmed in just a 4 day time span. One of the tornadoes in this outbreak was the violent EF-4 tornado that struck Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama. This devastating tornado was 1.5 miles wide as it tore through Tuscaloosa and had estimated winds of 190 mph.
It then would go on and cause destruction in Birmingham, AL where the National Weather Service found EF-4 damage. In total, this tornado was on the ground for an hour and a half and for a staggering 80.6 miles. Overall, the tornado killed 64 people and caused up to 2.2 billion dollars in damage. It was the costliest tornado in U.S history before the EF-5 Joplin tornado took the top spot in May of that same year.
Next, we a trip from Dixie Alley to the Southern Plains. On May 3rd, 1999, a supercell produced 14 tornadoes in a 3.5 hour span. One of them was the powerful and violent EF-5 tornadoes that stuck Moore, Oklahoma and Oklahoma City. The tornado first entered the western portions of Moore and produced high-end EF-4 to low-end EF-5 damage.
The tornado continued to move to the northeast and then entered the southern areas in Oklahoma City where it continued to produce EF-4 damage. This tornado was so powerful, that an 18 ton freight car was tossed 3/4 of a mile across an open field. This tornado killed 56 people and injured. A total of 1800 homes were destroyed and 2500 were damaged resulting in 1 billion dollars in damage.
And finally, the last significant tornado to strike the Stateline area (Illinois/Wisconsin border) that many people might not known about was the F4 Belvidere tornado on April 21st, 1967. A 26.6 mile monster that first touched down a little before 4 PM in the afternoon a few miles southeast of Cherry Valley, IL. It then continued to move northeast and would enter the city of Belvidere right around the time students were getting on the buses to head home.
One hundred twenty seven homes were destroyed, and hundreds more were damaged. The most notable and horrific part of this tornado was the mayhem at the Belvidere High School. Buses had already picked up the elementary school children and were loading the high school students when the tornado struck. In fact, 13 of the 24 fatalities occurred at the high school.
The lesson to take from this, urban areas are just as vulnerable to tornadoes as rural areas are. Whether you live downtown in a metro city, or on the outskirts of a big city, you still need to have a severe weather plan on hand in case severe weather or even a tornado rolls into your area. Have your safe place ready to go and make sure you have a way to receive watches and warnings, whether that be a weather radio, your cell phone, or tuning in to your local TV stations.
To learn more about this and other severe weather topics around the globe, be sure to click www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/severe-weather-topics!
©2019 Meteorologist Joey Marino