Being born and raised in New Jersey in the United States, the weather, though important, isn’t something that is usually a national story or at the level that causes major destruction or casualties.  This cannot be said about the southern and midwestern United States.  Known for the annual season of tornadoes, May 1, 2003 marked the start of a record breaking series of tornadoes that by the end of the month,  516 would be recorded.  The storms of May 2003 came after an unusually calm March and April, the normally most active period.  In addition, there weren’t even many thunderstorms.  All of this was highly unusual so the moist warm air arrived in the Mexico late.  As a result, the first ten days of May were significantly destructive with more than 300 tornadoes.  The previous high for the entire month of May was 399 in 1992 and it was only May 10th.  Would there be as many deaths as was recorded for the same period in 1953? The answer is no because unlike the 1953 storms, 2003 did not have any F5 category tornadoes. An F5 tornado has winds in excess of 261 mph (420 km/h).  By the end of the month, 38 people would be killed.  The storms of 1953 resulted in 163 deaths.

Of the 516 tornadoes, Illinois would record 74, 50% more than its previous monthly high.  Missouri experienced 71 twisters after a previous high of 29 in December 1982.

The worst series of tornadoes in a small window of time was April 3 -4 1974 when 148 individual tornadoes were recorded across the Midwest in an 18-hour period.  In one hour, there were 20 tornadoos recorded at the same time.  More than 300 people died in the 1974 storm.


6 responses

  1. ksbeth says:

    how terrifying


  2. John Holton says:

    I didn’t realize until I moved to Atlanta that the Southeast gets a lot of severe weather, with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. I lived in Chicago, where we rarely had any tornadoes (something about the lake making things a little less conducive to that kind of weather), at least not to the degree we have them here. I think the Gulf of Mexico creates a lot of instability in the atmosphere. Tornadoes seem to miss us where we live, thank heaven. It’s terrible driving around and seeing blue tarps over people’s roofs.


  3. Birgit says:

    I would never want to live in an area known for so many tornados. They scare me more than any other because it just looks like the devil’s finger causing this havoc.