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The 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak was one of the most intense tornado outbreaks in history

Domagoj Valjak

Throughout history, tornado outbreaks have unfortunately been quite common in the United States. Every few years disasters occur when the unstoppable force of nature descends from the sky and wreaks havoc on the ground.

Some of the most extreme tornadoes have been known to reach the whopping wind speed of more than 300 miles per hour. Several tornadoes reached such lethal speed during the second Palm Sunday tornado outbreak on April 11th, 1965.

A rope tornado in its dissipating stage, Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

A rope tornado in its dissipating stage, Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

 

 

An F4 tornado damage in Greentown, Indiana. Photo Credit

An F4 tornado damage in Greentown, Indiana. Photo Credit

The first Palm Sunday tornado outbreak happened in 1920 when as many as 37 tornadoes raked across the Midwestern and Southern United States. At the time there was no official warning program, and the forecast predicted stable weather, resulting in more than 380 people being killed as the surging tornadoes surprised everyone.

Although the public watch program had been implemented in 1953 and people were warned about incoming tornadoes, the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak in 1965 was incredibly lethal: 271 people were killed, more than 1500 were injured, and the cost of the damage exceeded 20 million dollars. This was one of the most intense tornado outbreaks in history, with at least 47 tornadoes. 21 of them were deadly.

 

Northern Indiana tornado tracks. Map showing the confirmed paths of the Palm Sunday tornadoes with Fujita scale intensity.

Northern Indiana tornado tracks. Map showing the confirmed paths of the Palm Sunday tornadoes with Fujita scale intensity.

 

The tornadoes ravaged Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, but the state of Indiana suffered the most damage: 137 people were killed there.

A rope tornado in its dissipating stage, Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

A rope tornado in its dissipating stage, Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

The outbreak happened on the important Christian holiday of Palm Sunday, and many people were killed while attending Church services or enjoying outdoor activities across the country. Therefore, the warnings transmitted by the now obsolete warning system reached only a limited number of people. Although April in the Midwestern United States tends to be mild and temperate, the temperature rose to 83 degrees Fahrenheit during the outbreak because of anomalous weather conditions.

The outbreak lasted only 11 hours but proved to be a display of Nature’s awesome power. The most horrifying sights were witnessed by the residents of the Midway Trailer Park in Indiana. Two tornadoes viciously danced around each other and ultimately combined into a double-funneled super-tornado. As a result, the whole trailer park was destroyed and the debris from its ruins could be found as far as 50 miles away.

Image of the “double tornado” destroying the Midway Trailer Park, on U.S. Route 33, in Dunlap, Indiana.

Image of the “double tornado” destroying the Midway Trailer Park, on U.S. Route 33, in Dunlap, Indiana.

The Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1965 was among the most intense tornado outbreaks ever recorded. Sadly, tornado outbreaks continue to devastate the United States at irregular intervals.

Read another story from us:Harry Volkman – the first weatherman to broadcast a tornado

Nowadays, the emergency services are fast and well trained, and people are better prepared, but tornadoes are natural forces that do not heed human intervention and we may witness more of their wild rage in the future.