September 20th, 2011

Expensive Tornado Outbreaks in 2011

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

The 2011 tornado season in the United States broke several records. More than 540 storm-related fatalities have been recorded in the United States so far this year. According to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service, April saw the most tornadoes ever reported in a single month - 875. There were a record breaking 226 tornado touchdowns in a single day - April 27. Around 1,600 tornadoes had been recorded by the end of June. Six of these are estimated to have reached EF-5 status (with winds exceeding 200 mph), tying 2011 with 1974 for most top-end tornadoes in one year. In addition to the tornadoes, there were more than 7,200 hail events and 11,300 wind damage reports during the first half of the year.

Two tornado outbreaks caused widespread damage in the United States during the second quarter. The first occurred between April 22 and April 28, damaging thousands of buildings in southern regions. Around 320 people were killed on April 27 alone, the second deadliest single day tornado outbreak in U.S. history. Alabama was badly hit by the outbreak, with insurable damage in the cities of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa alone expected to total around USD2 billion. Property Claims Services (PCS) has estimated an insured loss of more than USD5 billion for the entire outbreak, making it the most expensive tornado event in U.S. history (see Table 1).


Another devastating tornado outbreak hit the United States between May 20 and May 27. Missouri was particularly badly affected during this event, as a single EF-5 tornado flattened parts of Joplin City. The tornado killed more than 150 people and injured 900 more. Overall, this tornado outbreak is estimated to have caused an insured loss of USD4.9 billion.

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