April 27, 2011 is a day no Alabamian will ever forget. One of the largest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history hit the Southeast, and Alabama felt some of the worst Mother Nature had to offer that day. Forecasters were warning of a major tornado outbreak days in advance, and unfortunately, the forecast was accurate. 62 tornadoes touched down in the state of Alabama that day, cutting a combined damage path of over 1200 miles. 253 people lost their lives in the state of Alabama alone as a result of the storms that day.

Morning Squall Line

Tornado Tracks from the morning round of storms

A Quasi-Linear-Convective-System (QLCS), or squall line, intensified as it moved across Eastern Mississippi and into Alabama. This line of storms produced widespread wind damage across the state, and produced multiple tornadoes, some of which were very strong. You can slide through the radar imagery of those morning tornadoes below.

In addition to strong tornadoes, this morning line of storms produced widespread wind damage, leaving many in the state without power and interrupting lines of communication before additional violent storms would develop in the afternoon.

No Break For North Alabama

While Central Alabama saw a few hours of sunshine and a break from storms, North Alabama dealt with a second QLCS that produced more tornadoes through the middle of the day. While tornadoes touched down in Morgan, Limestone, and Madison counties, the temperature and dewpoint were climbing behind the morning round of storms, and the atmosphere was becoming primed for a tornado outbreak.

Afternoon Supercells

Pm Supercell Tornadoes

The atmosphere quickly rebounded after the morning round of storms over Alabama, and supercell storms began forming in parts of East Mississippi and West Alabama by mid-afternoon. While the morning round of storms left behind significant damage and killed 2 people in the state, the afternoon and evening round would prove to be the most devastating 8 hours Alabama witnessed. Supercell thunderstorms produced multiple, violent, long-track tornadoes across the state. Many of these tornadoes hit large cities, producing catastrophic damage and killing 319 people in the Southeast. 253 of those fatalities occurred in the state of Alabama. You can slide through the afternoon supercell storms below.

The Numbers

These storms produced widespread devastation. Across the Southeast, 199 tornadoes touched down that day, a record for the most in a single day in U.S. history. 62 tornadoes touched down in the state of Alabama. 34 tornadoes were EF-3 or greater. 4 EF-5 tornadoes touched down, and three of the four did damage in the state of Alabama. April 27, 2011 went down as the deadliest single-day tornado outbreak in the United States since the 1925 Tri-State tornado. 319 people lost their lives that day, including a staggering 253 in the state of Alabama.

Since that day, forecasters have worked hard to get better at both forecasting severe weather in the Southeast, as well as better communicate risk to people in harm’s way. The events of April 27, 2011 have shaped the field of meteorology and have led to advancements in warnings, and research on severe weather in the Southeast.

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Alex Puckett