5 Largest Tornadoes Ever Recorded

Tornadoes are some of the most violent and devastating natural disasters that happen on Earth. While tornadoes do happen from time to time in other countries, unfortunately the United States gets hit with tornadoes more often than any other place in the world. Due to this, all of the largest tornadoes on record have occurred in the United States. While there have been many more tornadoes than are on this list, these are the only tornadoes where the width was noted, which is the criteria we used to compile the list.

  1. Tri-State Tornado

Max Width: 0.68 – over 1 mi (1.09 – 1.61 km)
Location: Southern Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana
Date: March 18, 1925
Duration: 3 hours, 37 minutes
Max Category: F5 (retroactively assigned)
Highest Winds: Unknown, but traveled at forward speeds in excess of 73 mph (117.48 km/h)

Tri-State Tornado
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Although it was not the largest tornado, the Tri-State Tornado is known for setting several other records, including being the deadliest tornado ever recorded in the United States. There were 695 deaths, which is twice as many as the second deadliest tornado in the U.S. Since the Tri-State Tornado happened in 1925, it was retroactively classified as a category 5 tornado on the original Fujita scale.

The Tri-State Tornado holds the record for longest path, which is estimated to have been between 151 – 235 miles (243 – 378.3 kilometers). Additionally, the Tri-State Tornado has the longest know duration of any tornado at 3 hours and 37 minutes. Although the Tri-State Tornado was strong, it was quite small in comparison to the rest of the tornadoes on this list and only reached a max width of about one mile (1.61 kilometers).

Did You Know?

No one knows for sure if the Tri-State Tornado was only a single tornado or if was actually a series of tornadoes that caused the reported damage.

  1. Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado

Max Width: 1 – 1.4 mi (1.61 – 2.315 km)
Location: Grady, McClain, Cleveland and Oklahoma counties in Oklahoma, USA
Date: May 3, 1999
Duration: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Max Category: F5
Highest Winds: 301 ± 20 mph (484 ± 32 km/h)

Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado
Source: Wikimedia Commons via Erin D. Maxwell

The Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado was part of the Great Plains Tornado Outbreak that occurred on May 3 – 4, 1999. As the name of the tornado suggests, the town of Bridge Creek was hit the hardest by the tornado. When the tornado got to the town, it had reached its peak width of between 1 – 1.4 miles  (1.61 – 2.315 kilometers).

Unfortunately, the tornado’s path cut through a large number of mobile homes in Bridge Creek and about 200 mobile homes/houses were completely obliterated. The Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado also lasted for over an hour and passed over several towns. By the end of the tornado’s destruction, 36 people were dead and nearly 600 people were injured across all the affected areas.

Did You Know?

In total, the Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado destroyed and estimated 1,800 homes, damaged about 2,500 homes, which amounted to about $1 billion in damage.

  1. Mulhall Tornado

Max Width: 1.5 – 4.38 mi (2.4 – 7.05 km)
Location: Mulhall, Oklahoma
Date: May 3, 1999
Duration: Unspecified
Max Category: F4
Highest Winds: about 260 mph (418.43 km/h)

Mulhall Tornado
Source: news9.com

Depending on the source, the Mulhall Tornado is a contender for being the largest tornado ever recorded. Differing accounts report that the Mulhall Tornado’s peak width was over 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) and up to 4.38 miles (7.05 kilometers).

Like all of the tornadoes on this list, the Mulhall Tornado did a significant amount of damage. Every building in the town of Mulhall was damaged in some way by the devastating tornado. Surprisingly, only one Mulhall resident was seriously injured.

Did You Know?

Despite the size of the Mulhall Tornado, there were no fatalities because the tornado mostly passed over rural, unpopulated areas.

  1. Hallam Tornado

Max Width: 2.5 mi (4 km)
Location: Jefferson, Saline, Gage, Lancaster, and Otoe counties in Nebraska, USA
Date: May 22, 2004
Duration: Unspecified
Max Category: F4
Highest Winds: about 200 mph (320 km/h)

Hallam Tornado
Source: harkphoto.com

Before the 2013 tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma the Hallam Tornado was the widest tornado on record with a maximum width of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). Although the Hallam Tornado swept through many counties, it was named after the town of Hallam, which was hit the hardest. The tornado leveled nearly all of the homes and businesses in Hallam.

Fortunately, the Hallam Tornado mostly passed through sparsely populated rural areas. By the end of the storm, one person was dead and about 40 people were injured.

Did You Know?

According to news reports, the Hallam Tornado was so wide that many people did not even realize that they were witnessing a tornado.

  1. El Reno Tornado

Max Width: 2.6 mi (4.2 km)
Location: Canadian County, Oklahoma, USA – especially south of El Reno
Date: May 31, 2013
Duration: 40 minutes
Max Category: EF3
Highest Winds: 301 mph (484 km/h)

El Reno Tornado
Source: harkphoto.com

The 2013 El Reno Tornado is widely considered to be the largest tornado ever recorded, based on width. However, according to some sources the Mulhall Tornado was larger. At its peak, the massive El Reno Tornado reached a width of 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers) and speeds of up to 301 mph (484 km/h). Despite its strength, the El Reno Tornado was only categorized as an EF3.

The El Reno Tornado lasted for about 40 minutes and by the end eight people were killed, all in their vehicles. Three of those people were experienced storm chasers. In addition to the fatalities, the El Reno Tornado injured over 150 people.

Did You Know?

In 2015, scientists built a new tool which allowed them to piece together video footage from the event and see what was happening inside of the El Reno Tornado.

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