View of 2022 tornado destruction with homes wiped from their foundation.

A scene in Bryan County following the most powerful tornado in 2022.

April 5 marks the 2-year anniversary of the Bryan County tornado. It was THE most powerful tornado to hit the United States in 2022 and it occurred in Georgia.  Several tornadoes hit southern Georgia that day but this one was unusual. It was an EF 4 with winds of 185 mph. Here is a picture of the actual tornado. Not much above ground survived along its track.

Another outbreak of note was April 27-28, 2011 when a swarm of 15 tornadoes tracked across North Georgia. I remember it well, as we were under a rare HIGH RISK designation from the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. As the evening progressed on the 27th, our National Weather Service in Atlanta, in addition to the already issued tornado watch, issued a designation of PDS, or PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION, indicating a high potential for powerful, long-tracked tornadoes. Damage from the tornadoes was again, devastating.

On April 5-6, 1936 an 18-hour barrage of tornadoes hit the Southeast. An EF 4-5 with winds over 200 mph at times slammed an area from Tupelo, MS to Gainesville, GA. There were 454 fatalities, 2,498 injuries, and $335 million in property damage. In Georgia, more than 200 people died, making it the deadliest disaster ever recorded in the state.

As a side note, the Tupelo tornado leveled 48 city blocks and nearly 1,000 homes. 216 people died that day with more than 700 injured. Among those to escape was one year old Elvis Presley.  Elvis and his mom, Gladys, took shelter in the home of Great Uncle Noah Presley, who, at that time, was Mayor of Tupelo.

Tornadoes can occur at any time of year in Georgia but the prime months are in the spring, March through May, peaking in April. It seems we are seeing more and more tornadoes in the Southeast over recent years. Some climate experts seeing the so-called, “Tornado Alley,” across the Great Plains shifting east over the past decade. It might be true. Look at last year for example. We usually average 25 tornadoes per year statewide. By April of last year we already had 32!

With the warmth we’ve seen so early in the spring this year, I want you all to be prepared. Have a family meeting. Sit down with the kids. Make sure you all know how you will get warnings, where you will all take shelter, have supplies in case there’s damage and power goes out. All things you need to know BEFORE we enter the peak of tornado season this month.

Photo: provided by the National Weather Service