10 of the Worst Tornadoes in United States History

The U.S. experiences about 1,200 tornadoes per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And 10 of these extreme weather events — some of which reach decades back — have earned a spot on this list of the worst tornadoes in history, with damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

But damage costs at the time don’t always indicate how severely a tornado impacted an area. For the tornadoes included on this list, we compiled dates and actual costs when the extreme weather events occurred, sourced from the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, and adjusted for inflation to find out how much the destruction from the tornadoes would have cost in today’s dollars. The number of injuries and deaths were obtained from the National Weather Service unless otherwise noted.


U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Wikimedia Commons

10. Wichita Falls, Texas, on April 10, 1979

Residents of Wichita Falls and Wichita County had been receiving severe weather warnings for close to an hour before the tornado reached the city around 6 p.m. The last siren from the city’s warning system sounded around 5:50 p.m. — the same time that storm spotters reported seeing the tornado approaching Memorial Stadium, the town’s high school football field.

As for the damage, this storm was no slouch. The tornado appeared as a gigantic, black, column-shaped mass, carving a path of destruction more than 1 mile wide as the storm made its way through the area. Swirling within the tornado’s fury were large pieces of debris that were visible from miles away.

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