This is the 10th anniversary of one of the most destructive tornado outbreaks in history. Prior to the spring of 2011, the record number of tornadoes in a single month was 542, set in May 2004, while the record for April was only 267. The 2011 Tornado Super Outbreak by contrast, had 362 confirmed tornadoes! A powerful low-pressure system combined with moist and unstable atmospheric conditions produced this now-infamous tornado outbreak. Between April 25 and 28, the outbreak violently struck the Southeastern United States, resulting in roughly $11 billion in damages and leaving an estimated 321 people dead. The outbreak challenged and surpassed the records set by almost all previous tornado events, ranking as one of the deadliest and most expensive meteorological disasters on record. April 27th was the “deadliest day for tornadoes” in the last 75 years, killing more people than any outbreak since 1936, when 454 individuals died.

In Severe Weather Center 2, I could not believe what I was seeing in neighboring Alabama, where the most damage of the 2011 outbreak occurred. When it was all said and done, 69 tornadoes touched down, including the outbreak’s costliest tornado. At its peak, this EF-4 was 1.5 miles – more than 26 football fields – wide, and its winds reached 190 mph. It was on the ground for a staggering 80 miles, passing through the cities of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. It caused 65 people to lose their lives and injured more than 1,000. Debris cleanup in Tuscaloosa alone cost $100 million.

Prior to the outbreak, the Storm Prediction Center placed North Georgia under a moderate risk. However, northwest Georgia was placed in a very rare high risk category. As day turned to night, a tornado watch was issued with the designation of PDS, Particularly Dangerous Situation. I remember my mouth dropping. I knew what it meant. Powerful long-track tornadoes would be likely. It was going to be a long and scary night for my viewers. As it turned out, 15 tornadoes touched down causing incredible damage.

The next day we went out with the National Weather Service and found the strongest tornado, an EF 4 touched down in northwest Georgia. The NWS investigative team determined winds were 175 mph! Seven people died. Thirty others were injured. More than 100 homes were obliterated.

I never want to see anything like that again. The destruction was beyond belief. Spring severe storm season is ongoing this month and again, this is the 10th anniversary of the Super Outbreak. Let’s all be vigilant this month and keep an eye on the sky. Always check in with us on our website before heading out to the lake. Spring storms can fire up fast.