Many of us may remember the jaw-dropping images of the May 22, 2011, tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and leaving an incredible 14-mile path of destruction. But that system was only one of the record-breaking tornado events this year. Data compiled by meteorologist Jeffrey Masters shows that when deaths, damage and financial losses are considered, 2011 can be called the worst U.S. tornado year on record.
Masters, who runs the Weather Underground, a Web site that provides local forecasts, analyzes severe weather and turns raw storm data from the National Weather Service into captivating maps and data visualizations, has posted a compilation of record and near-record tornado events for 2011. Some notable stats from his post are below. A blow-by-blow description of the year’s major tornadoes, as well as a list of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, can be found on NOAA’s 2011 tornado review page.
The overall tornado death toll of 552 in 2011 ties 1936 as the second deadliest year in U.S. history. Masters notes on his site that during the 1930s, the tornado death rate per million people was 60 to 70 times greater than in the year 2000, “implying that this year’s tornadoes may have killed tens of thousands of people if we did not have our modern tornado warning system.” The dubious record for the most fatal storm is held by the Tri-State Tornado (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana) of March 18, 1925, which killed 695 people.