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The Deadliest Tornadoes in the United States on Record

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While tornadoes can occur at any time of year, they most often form during early spring and summer. They can happen anywhere, but they are most prevalent throughout the Midwest and Deep South. A map of Tornado Alley USA consists of several states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

An average of 1,200 tornadoes occur yearly, with most remaining relatively weak. However, a handful evolve into extremely dangerous and deadly tornadoes, costing hundreds of lives and billions of dollars in damage.

Here are five of the most devastating tornadoes in United States history.

1. The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

One of the deadliest tornado outbreaks occurred on March 18, 1925, across portions of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. The forecasts were vague because weather reports and records were less detailed than they are now.

Therefore, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the exact conditions that caused this outbreak. A surface low pressure tracked northeast, moving across parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana during the day, while a warm front tracked north, and a cold front moved to the southwest of the area.

These conditions allowed warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico to move across the region.

During this period, weather forecasters were discouraged from using the word "tornado" to avoid causing mass panic, so many people did not heed the warning that a powerful storm was heading their way.

After the tornado touched town near Ellington, Missouri, it continued moving northeast, eventually crossing into Illinois and Indiana. Featuring wind speeds up to 300 mph and a mile wide, this tornado is considered an F-5 on the Fujita scale.

After remaining on the ground for three and a half hours, it finally lifted near Petersburg, Indiana. A total of 15,000 homes were a complete loss, while 751 people lost their lives and 2,000 were injured.



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