A Brief History
On February 5, 2008, a date known as “Super Tuesday,” a series of powerful tornadoes hit the Southern United States, leaving 57 people dead. An astounding 86 twisters hovered over Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, bringing with them terrific thunderstorms, winds peaking between 166 and 200 mph and hail that caused massive damage. Even hail the size of softballs (4 inches) was reported!
The hardest hit areas were in the vicinities of Memphis, Tennessee and Jackson, Tennessee. The 57 deaths and hundreds of injuries were the second worst human life toll from a February tornado outbreak since 1950. The worst being in 1971 when 123 people were killed. The most powerful of the tornadoes was rated at EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, a scale with 0 being the smallest and 5 being the worst.)
A widespread swath of misery was felt in the middle of the country from Michigan to Florida as the 15-hour storm brought smaller, less damaging tornadoes to the Mid-Western states as well, with non-tornado winds of 50 to 82 mph being recorded in thunderstorms and with the colder climates being hit with heavy snowfall and freezing rain.
As bad as all the weather damage was, it could have been worse. Tornado-related wind speeds as high as 300+ mph have been recorded, and the worst examples of tornadoes can be 2 miles wide and travel for 50+ miles!
Most of the tornado activity in the United States occurs in the central part of the country where the land is largely flat. Flimsy structures such as mobile homes are famously susceptible to damage, but even mighty skyscrapers can be damaged if they are unlucky enough to be in the path of a twister.
Exciting movies have been made about the awesome impact of tornadoes, most notably the recent thrillers Sharknado (2013) and Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) which feature large man-eating sharks being carried aloft by tornadoes over land where the ravenous fish gobble up hapless citizens!
Question for students (and subscribers): Please feel free to share your experiences with tornadoes or at least comment on your favorite twister movies in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Fradin, Dennis and Judy Fradin. Tornado!: The Story Behind These Twisting, Turning, Spinning, and Spiraling Storms (National Geographic Kids). National Geographic Children’s Books, 2011.