Some high-risk days of the 1980s and 1990s:

On April 06, 1972, the Severe Local Storms Unit of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center began issuing a new forecast product designed to provide an at-a-glance assessment of the thunderstorm potential across the continental United States. Early outlooks were quite simple. As forecasting technology improved, the outlooks became more detailed. The modern Storm Prediction Center convective outlook provides a complete breakdown of where thunderstorms/severe thunderstorms are expected, why they are expected, what the main threats are expected to be, and more.

Modern convective outlooks divide the thunderstorm potential into four threat levels. General (non-severe) thunderstorms, slight risk of severe thunderstorms, moderate risk of severe thunderstorms, and high risk of severe thunderstorms. This archive focuses on those days when a high risk was included in the outlook, because a high risk is only issued when the forecasters expect a major (perhaps even historical) tornado outbreak and/or damaging convective windstorm (derecho).

This section includes those high-risk days prior to 1999. Any high risks issued before 1988 are missing because of a lack of information. The archives are quite sketchy up until about 1997, because there are relatively few convective outlooks and storm chaser accounts still online for the older events.

1.) May 07, 1988: The high risk forecast in Oklahoma busted (the outbreak didn't happen). That's all I know. No NSSFC products available.

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Storm Reports

2.) November 15, 1989: A tornado outbreak struck the Southeast on this day. Huntsville, Alabama was hit by a destructive F4 tornado.

Archived NSSFC Products:

0700 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CST)

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (9:00 AM CST)
 

Public Severe Weather Outlook (9:30 AM CST)


1900 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 PM CST)

Other Links:

Birmingham, AL NWS Summary

Huntsville, AL NWS Summary

Storm Reports

3.) March 13, 1990: I cannot find any references to the outlook risk level on this day, much less any actual SELS/NSSFC outlooks, so I do not know for sure that this was a high risk day. However, I will assume it probably was given the massive 59-tornado outbreak (including 2 F5s, 2 F4s and 10 F3s) across Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa. Therefore, if it wasn't a high risk day, the threat was badly underforecast.

One of the F5s was the infamous Hesston, Kansas tornado, and the other was spawned from the same supercell immediately after the Hesston tornado dissipated.

Links:

Hesston tornado eyewitness account by Kansas State Trooper

Video of the Hesston tornado

Storm Reports

4.) May 15, 1990: Stillwater, Oklahoma was hit by a killer F3 tornado during a localized severe weather outbreak. No NSSFC products available.

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Storm Reports

5.) June 02, 1990: A major tornado outbreak struck the Ohio Valley and Midwest during the evening into the overnight hours of June 02-03, 1990. 55 tornadoes including 7 F4s touched down. Nick Smith has kindly provided me with a wealth of information about the outbreak, including saved radar images and screenshots from The Weather Channel's coverage.

Links:

Various images from Nick

Manuel/Delisi case study

Indianapolis, IN NWS Summary


Storm Reports

6.) April 11, 1991: A high-risk bust in which a lack of the expected instability and moisture prevented storms from intensifying. No NSSFC products available.

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Storm Reports

7.) April 12, 1991: NSSFC's SELS (forerunner to the SPC) got it right this time. An extensive tornado outbreak occurred in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. There is a well-known video of a tornado in this outbreak that was so picturesque that storm chaser Doug Speheger, a member of Howard Bluestien's research team exclaimed "Ooh, what a classic!" No NSSFC products available.

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Sam Barricklow

Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Storm Reports

8.) April 26, 1991: Significant Kansas/Oklahoma outbreak that made the 12th seem like a fair-weather day by comparison. Three of the approximately fifty tornadoes have been immortalized either by the scars they left on the communities they affected, by the incredible video taken of them, or both. These are:

The Andover, Kansas tornado, which devastated a trailer park in that community, killing 13. This tornado also hit McConnell Air Force Base and parts of south Wichita. This tornado was among the most destructive in recent memory (perhaps not surpassed until May 3, 1999) and was rated F5.

The tornado near Red Rock, Oklahoma. It fortunately occurred mostly in open country and received an official rating of F4, but the mobile Doppler radars measured winds of 287 MPH within the vortex, which is in the F5 estimated wind speed range.

The Kansas Turnpike Overpass tornado. This was produced by the same supercell that spawned the Wichita/Andover tornado mentioned above, but contrary to what some sources will tell you, it was NOT the same tornado. It also was not a violent (F4 or F5) tornado. It did roll and tumble the cars and trucks in its path along the highway, but it did not loft them into the air and throw or carry them long distances, which is a characteristic of violent tornado damage. It also did NOT pass directly over the people taking shelter under the bridge. The acceleration of the wind seen in the video is due to inflow blowing toward the tornado. The highly publicized and incorrect notions that the tornado was violent and made a direct hit on the bridge is responsible for a widespread public belief that overpasses are safe shelter from tornadoes. More recent disasters have shown that this is not necessarily the case.

Archived NSSFC Products:

Public Severe Weather Outlook (4:00 AM CDT)

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)


PDS Tornado Watch #183 (12:10 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Sam Barricklow

Dave Ewoldt

Tim Marshall


Gene Moore


Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Andover tornado

Storm Reports

9.) April 28, 1991: Another strong storm system moved into the Plains and warranted a high risk, but presence of negative parameters kept activity minimal compared to two days before. However, a few small tornadoes developed from low-topped, largely precipitation-free mini-supercells in Kansas. No NSSFC products available.

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Case Study by Jon Davies

Storm Reports

10.) June 07, 1993: Widespread severe weather outbreak across much of the Plains, with a tornado outbreak in South Dakota. No NSSFC products available.

Other Links:

Storm Reports

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Robert Satkus

11.) March 27, 1994: The Southeastern U.S. Palm Sunday tornado outbreak produced several destructive tornadoes across Alabama and Georgia.

Archived NSSFC Products:

1930 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:30 PM CST)

Other Links:

Birmingham, AL NWS Summary

The outbreak from a forecaster's perspective


Storm Reports

12.) April 25, 1994: This was of the only outbreak days in the Plains in the spring of '94. It unfortunately resulted in several deaths and numerous injuries from tornadoes in northern Texas.

Archived NSSFC Products:

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Quick Response report on the Lancaster, TX tornado

Storm Reports

13.) August 27, 1994: A rare summer high risk day in the upper Midwest. According to the storm reports archive, 9 tornadoes occurred in Wisconsin, with 2 of them of F3 strength. There were 4 fatalities and 51 injuries. This is a significant tornado event for Wisconsin, so it seems strange that there is a relative dearth of information about the event online. I cannot find any NWS event write-ups or other pages dedicated to the outbreak. The information below is from the tornado database at the NWS-La Crosse.

ADAMS COUNTY:

Date: 8 27 1994 Time: 2210 CST Location: Plainville 1SE Other Counties Affected: None Path Length (Miles): 0.1 Path Width (Yards): 25 Deaths: 0 Injuries: 0 F-Scale: F0

Info: Touched down in a field and caused some crop damage.

Date: 8 27 1994 Time: 2041-2057 CST Location: Monroe Center 2SE Other Counties Affected: None Path Length (Miles): 10.5 Path Width (Yards): 850 Deaths: 2 Injuries: 22 F-Scale: F3

Info: Known as the "BIG FLATS" tornado, this killer rolled through the town of Big Flats and caused $1 million in damage. An 80 year old man and his 78 year old wife died when the tornado destroyed their home in Big Flats. Twenty four homes were destroyed, 8 suffered major damage, and 160 had light to moderate damage. In addition, the Big Flats Fire Department and town hall were destroyed, as well as a thrift shop. Seventy cows were crushed to death in one barn as the walls blew out and the upper floor, filled with 16,000 bales of hay, and the roof collapsed. This was one of the first tornadoes detected by the new WSR-88D installed at Sullivan, WI.

JUNEAU COUNTY:

Date: 8 27 1994 Time: 2150-2158 CST Location: Lyndon Station 1S Other Counties Affected: None Path Length (Miles): 5.5 Path Width (Yards): 100 Deaths: 0 Injuries: 3 F-Scale: F1

Info: Moving southeast, this tornado damaged 8 mobile homes and plowed through a campground where 2 trailers were hit. Considerable tree damage also occurred.

Archived NSSFC Products:

0700 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 AM CDT)

Public Severe Weather Outlook #1 (6:00 AM CDT)


Public Severe Weather Outlook #2 (10:15 AM CDT)


1930 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:30 PM CDT)

Other Links:

Storm Reports

14.) November 27, 1994: A tornado outbreak in the lower Mississippi Vally produces 19 tornadoes causing 6 fatalities and 45 injuries.

Archived NSSFC Products:

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (9:00 AM CST)

Public Severe Weather Outlook (10:00 AM CST)

1930 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:30 PM CST)

Other Links:

Storm Reports

15.) April 17, 1995: A severe weather outbreak in the southern Plains, including a prolific tornadic supercell along the Red River in northern Texas/southern Oklahoma.

Archived NSSFC Products:

Public Severe Weather Outlook (4:00 AM CDT)

1900 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Charles Edwards

Robert Satkus


Arthur Witt

Other Links:

Storm Reports

16.) May 07, 1995: Another tornado outbreak hit the southern Plains with several strong (F2/F3) tornadoes including one that struck Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Other Links:

Storm Reports

Archived NSSFC Products:

Mesoscale Discussion

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)


Public Severe Weather Outlook (10:15 AM CDT)


1900 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 PM CDT)


0200 UTC Day 1 Outlook (9:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Sam Barricklow

Robert Satkus

17.) May 12, 1995: Still another tornado outbreak was expected across the Plains, but capping and cloud cover kept storm activity to a minimum. However, the one supercell that did manage to develop went nuts and produced nearly 10 tornadoes in Kansas.

Archived NSSFC Products:

Public Severe Weather Outlook #1 (4:00 AM CDT)

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)


Public Severe Weather Outlook #2 (11:00 AM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Charles Edwards

William Reid


Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Storm Reports

18.) May 13, 1995: A tornado and severe thunderstorm outbreak in the Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky region resulted in several destructive tornadoes and 3 deaths.

Archived NSSFC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CDT)

Public Severe Weather Outlook (11:00 AM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Stephen Jascourt

Gilbert Sebenste

Other Links:

Storm Reports

19.) May 17, 1995: Another southern Plains bust. As on the 12th, severe weather events did occur but not in great enough numbers to verify a high risk.

Archived NSSFC Products:

Public Severe Weather Outlook (5:00 AM CDT)

1900 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Robert Satkus

Other Links:

Storm Reports

20.) April 19, 1996: The biggest tornado outbreak to affect the state of Illinois up to that time hit on this day. Over 30 tornadoes occurred in the state (Note-that record may have been broken on April 20, 2004). Significant tornadoes affected the communities of Ogden and Decatur. A TV chase crew from Minnesota got some very intense video as the whirling debris cloud of a small tornado passed just on the other side of the highway from the ditch they were crouched in.

Archived NSSFC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CDT)

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)


1900 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 PM CDT)


PDS Tornado Watch #190 (5:11 PM CDT)


0200 UTC Day 1 Outlook (9:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Roger Edwards

Gilbert Sebenste

Other Links:

Quad Cities, IA/IL/MO NWS Summary

Case Study by University of Illinois
(includes meteorological overview, chaser accounts and damage survey)

Case Study by Jewitt, Lee & Wilhelmson


USA Today article (removed broken link)

Storm Reports

21.) May 26, 1996: Severe weather outbreak in the southern Plains.

Archived SPC Products:

Public Severe Weather Outlook #1 (6:00 AM CDT)

Public Severe Weather Outlook #2 (12:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Steve Gaddy

John Monteverdi


Robert Satkus


Gilbert Sebenste

Other Links:

Storm Reports

22.) May 02, 1997: A widespread outbreak of severe thunderstorms struck the lower Mississippi Valley and the Southeast. It mostly consisted of large hail and damaging wind, with 8 tornadoes touching down. The strongest was an F3 at Belzoni and Tchula, Mississippi. The only fatality was south of Chickamauga in far northwestern Georgia, where an F1 tornado killed a young girl when it destroyed her family's mobile home.

Archived SPC Products:

Public Severe Weather Outlook (5:00 AM CDT)

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)


1900 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 PM CDT)


0200 UTC Day 1 Outlook (9:00 PM CDT)


Hazardous Weather Update (9:00 PM CDT)

Other Links:

Peachtree City, GA NWS Summary

Jackson, MS NWS Case Study

Tchula, Mississippi F3 tornado (link currently broken)

Storm Reports

23.) July 01, 1997: Another rare summer high risk day in the upper Midwest. A strong cap prevented storms from forming until after dark, and the several supercells that went up at that time quickly coalesced into a small derecho ( a strong, long-lived thunderstorm-induced windstorm) across Minnesota into west-central Wisconsin.

Archived SPC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CDT)

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)


1900 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Don Lloyd

John Moser

Other Links:

Storm Reports

24.) February 10, 1998: A derecho affected parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi with widespread damaging winds and several weak (F0-F1) tornadoes.

Archived SPC Products:

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (9:00 AM CST)

1930 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:30 PM CST)

Other Links:

Storm Reports

25.) April 08, 1998: An outbreak of intense tornadoes hit the southeastern states, among them was the infamous Oak Grove/Birmingham, Alabama F5 disaster. The incredible carnage inflicted on the community could have been even worse, as the tornado fortunately dissipated just before reaching the downtown Birmingham area.

Archived SPC Products:

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)

Other Links:

Birmingham, AL NWS Summary

Peachtree City, GA NWS Summary

WSR-88D Mesocyclone Detection Algorithm case study

Quick Response report-Legates/Biddle study of warning response


Quick Response report on risk factors for death


Chris Reese's Study


Rick Langdon's page about the tornado


Storm Reports

26.) April 15, 1998: Outbreak of mostly small tornadoes in the middle Mississippi Valley, however there were four fatalities inflicted during the overnight hours of April 15-16 by strong-violent (F3-F4) tornadoes near the Arkansas/Tennessee border.

Archived SPC Products:

Public Severe Weather Outlook (6:00 AM CDT)

1200 UTC Day 1 Outlook (7:00 AM CDT, graphic only)

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Shane Adams

John Farley


Stephen Jascourt


Don Lloyd


Jeff Piotrowski


Gilbert Sebenste

Other Links:

Storm Reports

27.) April 16, 1998: The same storm system responsible for the previous day's high risk/overnight tornadoes spawned another, more significant tornado outbreak slightly further east. Best known is the Nashville, Tennessee tornado, which was actually three separate tornadoes, two F2 and one F3. An F5 tornado hit Lawrence County in south-central Tennessee.

Archived SPC Products:

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)

Other Links:

Memphis, TN NWS Summary

Nashville, TN NWS Summary
(Nashville tornadoes)

Nashville, TN NWS Summary
(Lawrence County F5)

Photos & radar images of the F5


Storm Reports

28.) May 31, 1998: The same storm system responsible for the killer Spencer, SD tornado and upper Midwest/Great Lakes derecho (which, incidentally, just missed my location in Madison, WI) on the day before triggered a severe weather outbreak in the New York/Pennsylvania area, including several strong tornadoes. An F3 killed one person in Pennsylvania. This may be the only time ever that the SPC or SELS outlooked a high risk in the Northeast.

Archived SPC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CDT)

1200 UTC Day 1 Outlook (7:00 AM CDT)


1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)

Public Severe Weather Outlook (10:30 AM CDT)

1930 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:30 PM CDT)

Other Links:

Albany, NY NWS study

Pennsylvania Meteorological Center study


Central Atlantic Storm Investigators study


Storm Reports

29.) June 14, 1998: An outbreak of 22 weak (F0-F1) tornadoes in northeast Missouri and west-central Illinois, plus a derecho beginning in the St. Louis area, across Illinois to Kentucky and Tennessee.

Archived SPC Products:

1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:00 AM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Don Lloyd

Jeff Piotrowski

Other Links:

NWS case study

Storm Reports

30.) January 21, 1999: The biggest tornado outbreak in state history ravaged Arkansas. The Little Rock area was hit hard. The number of tornadoes in this single outbreak was nearly triple the January average for the entire nation.

Archived SPC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (12:00 AM CST)

1200 UTC Day 1 Outlook (6:00 AM CST)


1500 UTC Day 1 Outlook (9:00 AM CST)

Public Severe Weather Outlook (11:00 AM CST)


1930 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:30 PM CST)


0200 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 PM CST)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Shane Adams

Scott Blair


George Hoelzeman


Jeff Piotrowski


Brian Stertz

Other Links:

Little Rock, AR NWS Summary

News articles about the tornadoes


Storm Reports

31.) March 08, 1999: As is rather common with early season situations (January 21 was a major exception!), marginal instability prevented cellular convection from forming in the extreme-shear environment and a squall line was the dominant storm mode. There were a couple of tornadoes in addition to some severe wind and hail, but severe weather was not widespread enough to justify a high risk.

Archived SPC Products:

1300 UTC Day 1 Outlook (7:00 AM CST)

1630 UTC Day 1 Outlook (10:30 AM CST)


2000 UTC Day 1 Outlook (2:00 PM CST)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Shane Adams

Eric Nguyen


Dean Schoeneck

Other Links:

Storm Reports

32.) April 08, 1999: A widespread tornado outbreak mostly over southwest Iowa and northern Missouri. 6 fatalities were caused by the 56 tornadoes.

Archived SPC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CDT)

1300 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 AM CDT)

Public Severe Weather Outlook (10:45 AM CDT)


1630 UTC Day 1 Outlook (11:30 AM CDT)


2000 UTC Day 1 Outlook (3:00 PM CDT)


0100 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Shane Adams

Don Lloyd


Jeff Piotrowski Account
Photo 1 Photo 2

Jason Politte

Brian Stertz

Other Links:

University of Nebraska photos

More University of Nebraska photos

Quad Cities NWS Summary

National Weather Service Damage Surveys (via USA Today)

Storm Reports

33.) May 03, 1999: This day brought what was almost unarguably the worst tornado outbreak to hit the Plains states since April 26, 1991. 77 tornadoes rampaged through Oklahoma and southern Kansas, including one F5 and at least three F4 tornadoes, which caused major devastation in Moore, OK, Mulhall, OK, Dover, OK, and Wichita, KS. At least 40 were killed.

Archived SPC Products:

1630 UTC Day 1 Outlook (11:30 AM CDT)

2000 UTC Day 1 Outlook (3:00 PM CDT)


0100 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Shane Adams

Sam Barricklow


Charles Doswell


Bobby Eddins


Roger Edwards


Kenneth Fugate


J. R. Hehnly


Eric Nguyen


Jeff Piotrowski


Putnam Reiter


Robert Satkus


Dean Schoeneck

Brian Stertz

Other Links:

Norman, OK NWS Summary

David Schultz's Study


WSR-88D Mesocyclone Detection Algorithm Case Study


SPC Case Study


SPC Case Study #2


SPC Case Study #3


Storm Reports

34.) May 04, 1999: The same storm system responsible for the previous day's central Oklahoma outbreak shifted slightly eastward, but remained just as potent. Fortunately, the tornadoes produced on this day in northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas were not nearly as disastrous as those of the 3rd, but one person was killed in northeast Texas by an F3 tornado.

Archived SPC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CDT)

1300 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 AM CDT)


1630 UTC Day 1 Outlook (11:30 AM CDT)


2000 UTC Day 1 Outlook (3:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Martin Lisius

Eric Nguyen


Jason Politte

Other Links:

Storm Reports

35.) May 05, 1999: This persistent and powerful storm system stuck around long enough to warrant a third straight high risk and cause a third straight severe weather outbreak day. Widespread damaging straight-line winds were more prevalent on the 5th, with fewer tornadoes than the previous 2 days (18 compared with 39 on the 4th and 77 on the 3rd), but three people lost their lives to an F4 tornado in Tennessee.

Archived SPC Products:

1300 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 AM CDT)

1630 UTC Day 1 Outlook (11:30 AM CDT)


2000 UTC Day 1 Outlook (3:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

John Farley

Other Links:

Nashville, TN NWS Summary

Storm Reports

Note: Starting with June, 1999, SPC Preliminary Storm Reports are available on-line in their entirety, so I will be linking to the full listings, rather than to forecaster John Hart's graphical archive.

36.) June 05, 1999: Although the forecasted major outbreak never materialized, a few photogenic tornadoes developed in Nebraska and South Dakota. Several chasers had successful trips. The same storm system brought another round of widespread severe weather to the upper Midwest on the next day, when I came face to face with it.

Archived SPC Products:

0600 UTC Day 1 Outlook (1:00 AM CDT)

1300 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 AM CDT)


1630 UTC Day 1 Outlook (11:30 AM CDT)


Public Severe Weather Outlook (12:00 PM CDT)


2000 UTC Day 1 Outlook (3:00 PM CDT)

0100 UTC Day 1 Outlook (8:00 PM CDT)

Storm Chaser Accounts:

Bob Conzemius

Dave Lewison


Don Lloyd


John Monteverdi


Gene Moore


Jeff Piotrowski


University of Nebraska

Other Links:

Storm Reports

High risks 2000-present

Main Weather Page


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