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March 2017 Upper Midwest Tornado Outbreak
Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 4.34.54 PM
NOAA weather risk for March 14, showing the highest risks for Eastern Illinois, Central Indiana, and Western Ohio, as well as moderate risks from Ohio, Kentucky and Southern Michigan and relatively slight risks elsewhere.
Date of tornado outbreak: March 14, 2017 - March 17, 2017
Duration1: 48 Hours, 23 minutes
Maximum rated tornado2: EF5 tornado
Tornadoes caused: 56
Damages: TBA
Fatalities: TBA
Areas affected: United States; Upper & Eastern Midwest

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

This tornado outbreak came to be known as one of the worst tornado outbreaks in United States history since the Super Outbreak of April 2011. Early March 13, 2017, a warm front attached to an upper level low traversed across the Upper Eastern Plains, bringing with it light rain showers and abnormally high temperatures for the Upper Midwest in states such as Ohio and Indiana. This warm air was quickly disturbed, when, that night, a cold front swept through the area and instantly dropped low-altitude temperatures by as much as 30 degrees, resulting in the formation of several thunderstorms in Illinois, Kentucky, and Western Indiana. On March 14, storms continued to fire up early in the morning, leading the NOAA to issue a High Risk Day of tornadoes when the first tornado, an EF0, was confirmed in Santa Claus, Indiana, at 11:17 A.M. EST. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued for the area eleven minutes prior, and soon after, a plethora of tornadoes developed in a variety of neighboring states over the next several days. In total, the outbreak lasted for over 48 hours and resulted in 56 confirmed tornadoes that resulted in billions of dollars of devastation and several fatalities.

The first severe storm warning was issued for Washington County, Indiana after an EF0 tornado, the first of the outbreak was spotted just outside Santa Claus. A tornado warning was issued soon after. Throughout the day, more of the storm systems along the front became severe as characteristics of severe thunderstorms became more apparent. At the head of the front in Eastern Illinois and Western Indiana, straight-line winds exceeding 70 MPH caused power outages and downed trees, mainly in the Southern parts of these states. A house in North Vernon was the only one reported to have suffered damage from the storm, having had a blown-in garage door and shattered window. Soon after, a funnel cloud was reported in 4.8 miles away in Butlerville, Indiana, having been spotted near E Pike Street, close to the North Spur of Indiana's Historic Pathways. This pattern continued throughout the next several days as storms continued to fire and produce severe tornadoes across the region, eventually resulting in one of the most severe and devastating outbreaks of tornadoes the Upper Midwest had seen since the Super Outbreak of April 1974.

Total Tornadoes Confirmed

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
56 24 17 6 3 4 2

Outbreaks by State

Indiana

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
24 14 7 0 2 0 1

The storms were most intense in Indiana, resulting in the highest amount of tornadoes in that state opposed to any other during the outbreak. In addition to the list of tornadoes (see below), the storms themselves caused moderate to severe damage with strong, 70 MPH straight-line winds, large hailstones, and flash flooding due to nearly eleven inches of torrential rainfall. The storms themselves resulted in minor damage to homes and caused downed trees and electrical wires as well, resulting in sporadic power outages across Southern Indiana, where a multitude of violent tornadoes were reported, including the incredibly destructive Madison, Indiana EF5, one of the only two EF5 tornadoes that occurred during the outbreak. In total, Indiana suffered the most during the outbreak, having suffered over $200 billion in damages as well as losing several hundred lives.

In total, Indiana had the most tornadoes out of any state during the outbreak, with a total of 24 tornadoes, three of which were EF2 or higher. The Madison, IN EF5 tornado was the worst tornado to strike the state since the Great Tri-State Tornado of 1925, surpassing the massive devastation spurred by that tornado. The Madison tornado formed late in the in the evening with little prior warning, leading to a plethora of untimely deaths all over the city. It was also one of the rare tornadoes to strike a large town and/or city. Another devastating tornado was the Indianapolis EF3, which plowed right through a section of the city, causing extensive sustained damage to structures and landmarks in the area while the storm passed through at peak intensity. In addition, the storm cells that produced the Indianapolis EF3 were the strongest, having caused torrential rains in the area, as well as claiming responsibility for minor damage to homes in the southwest end of the city after 80+ MPH straight-line winds caused slight damage to roof shingles and windows to homes in the area, as well as snapping some electrical wires, having caused minor power blackouts to the southern end of the city.

The next round of storms were undoubtedly the most severe; a collection of HP Supercell thunderstorms in the midst of a rapidly-intensifying derecho. This line of storms produced the highest amount of tornadoes out of any other storm cell, however, most were fairly weak and not destructive. However, these same storms were also responsible for the production of the most destructive tornado in Indiana history: the Madison, IN EF5, which, soon after touching down, began to rapidly intensify as the night went on. At 11:12 P.M. EST, a Tornado Warning was once again issued for a widespread area including Madison, however, it may have been too late as the tornado tore through the center of town only seconds later.
F# Location Time Path Length Damage/Report
EF0 SE of Santa Claus 11:17 A.M. EST < 1 Mile No Deaths - A short-lived rope tornado formed in Southeast Santa Claus, just west of Route 245, in a green field across from across from the Santa Claus Sewer Plant. The tornado remained concentrated in the field, peaking at 60 MPH and later dissipating minutes after, having ripped grass up from the ground and causing damage to trees, although, keeping away from a housing development on Sleigh Bell Drive, less than 560 feet away.
EF3 Evansville 11:24 A.M. EST 74 Miles 17 Deaths - A deadly tornado formed in a large dirt field just several feet east of Dixie Flyer Road, close to the Indiana/Kentucky border on the Ohio River. The tornado quickly intensified to EF2 in the field and continued on a track NE towards Evansville. Residents were sheltered quickly due to the fact that the stovepipe tornado was visible from the city. At 11:31 A.M. EST, the tornado, now 105 MPH, plowed into Evansville after briefly crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and back into Indiana. The storm caused extensive damage, ripping roofs off of buildings and blowing cars off the W Lloyd Expressway. The tornado then continued NE, hitting populated areas, resulting in extensive damage. The tornado then strengthened to EF3 near Melody Hill, but began weakening soon after, having crossed into a rain shaft with massive downdrafts, resulting in its dissipation near Elberfeld, IN, having caused $541 million in damages to homes and properties and resulting in 17 deaths.
EF1 Madison 11:27 A.M. EST 7.9 Miles 2 Deaths - A precursor to the devastating Madison EF5, which occurred only hours after the first tornado dissipated, the storm front spawned a large funnel cloud over the Ohio River, just Southwest of the city. Shortly after, the system touched down and later tore through the western end of the city, causing considerable damage to older homes in the area; blowing out windows, tearing off roof shingles, downing small trees, and knocking out power to the area. Continuing NNE, the tornado exited the city and emerged over a heavily wooded area near Michigan Road, uprooting many small trees and downing limbs on larger ones. The tornado later began roping out along Fairmount Drive, causing minor damage to homes in the area, later dissipating in another wooded area near Crooked Creek prior to hitting a small farm (which avoided the destruction). The tornado resulted in $136 million in damages as well as claiming two lives.

See section below on this tornado.

EF0 W of

Carthage

11:34 A.M. EST 2.1 Miles No Deaths - A minor tornado occurred in a field in the southwest portion of the city, causing minor damage to trees and electrical wires in the area, and blowing roof shingles off a nearby farmhouse. No one was injured during the tornado, which eventually crossed a dirt road and dissipated near a grove of trees several minutes later. In total, the small tornado caused only $36,000 in damages.
EF0 W of

Carthage

11:36 A.M. EST <1 Mile No Deaths - Two minutes after the first Carthage tornado formed, the supercell managed to produce a weaker, satellite tornado that remained on the ground for only a few seconds. The tornado spent the remainder of its life as a funnel cloud that produced strong winds on the west end of the city, resulting in mass alerts due to funnel cloud spottings just outside the west end of the city. It later dissipated just outside Boyd Brook at 11:41 A.M. EST.
EF1

W of Greensboro

12:14 P.M. EST 5.1 Miles 6 Deaths - A funnel cloud was reported over a small farm in the rural portion of western Greensboro, which later formed into an intense EF1 tornado. The storm damages trees in the area, as well as tearing the roof off a trailer home near W County Road, as well as downing electrical wires in the area.
EF1

SW of Orleans

12:25

P.M.

EST

3.2 MIles 7 Deaths - This tornado formed on W Co 700 N, less than a mile W of Orleans. The tornado caused widespread power outages across the county, as well as downing several electrical wires. Cars on the road in the area were were blown off course, having caused five deaths. Several barns and fences were severely damaged, and another man was struck by debris while outside during the storm. The tornado later dissipated 0.25 miles SW of Orleans.

Kentucky

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
9 5 2 2 0 0 0

A lesser-developed line of severe thunderstorms began pushing into Kentucky five hours after the first tornado touched down in Indiana on the first day of the event, March 14. Eventually, the squall line began to develop into a derecho, having developed a well-defined hook echo on Doppler radar. Eventually, LP supercells began to develop in the storm's core, over central Marion, Kentucky, where the first out of nine tornadoes to hit Kentucky during the outbreak formed.

The town that bore the brunt of the damage from the Kentucky storm system was Covington - sustaining over hundreds of millions in damages from two very intense EF2 tornadoes, which spawned within minutes of each other. The southern edge of the city was devastated to the point where damage was heavy enough to be considered in the EF4 range. Due to heavy rain, low clouds, and heavy debris plumes, at times distinguishing the two tornadoes without radar proved to be difficult. Several of Covington's landmarks were not without loss. One of the tornadoes crossed over the Ohio River and caused heavy damage to to the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, having compromised the structure's supports, thus resulting in it being deemed unsafe and requiring that the structure be torn down. In addition, several cars were blown off the bridge, causing an extensive number of fatalities.

Another deadly EF1 struck the county of Meade late into the afternoon at 4:44 P.M. The tornado slammed multiple communities and resulted in nearly $2 million in damages and was directly responsible for four deaths. Officially rated as a high-end EF1 with winds exceeding 100 MPH in strength, the tornado directly hit over five cities in the area, destroying over 3,000 houses and seriously damaging a further 6,000. The tornado resulted in four deaths, and 135 injuries are attributed to the deadly storm.
F# Location Time Path Length Damage/Report
EF1

Marion

4:21 P.M. EST < 1 Mile No Deaths - A very organized storm cell responsible for most of the Kentucky tornadoes during the outbreak produced a funnel cloud along Route 60 in Marion, just west of Crittenden County High School. The storm later touched down and blew out electrical wires and severely damaged several homes in the area, as well as hitting the high school during a home basketball game, causing minor damages to the building and resulting in several injuries, but no deaths. The tornado later dissipated in a field adjacent to the Crittenden County Hospital, which, fortunately, was never directly impacted by the tornado.
EF2

Covington

4:24 P.M. EST 3.8 Miles 19 Deaths - A large funnel cloud reported west of Park Hills later developed into an intense tornado that tore through Park Hills as a high-end EF1, causing considerable damage. The tornado then plowed straight into the Westside area of Covington moments after an official warning was released. The storm destroyed over 2800 houses and buildings in the area, and later went on to cross the Ohio River and cause significant damage to John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.

See more detailed section below on this tornado.

EF2

SW of Covington

4:37 P.M. EST 7.4 Miles 14 Deaths - Only a little more than ten minutes after the first tornado slammed the John A. Roebling Bridge, a second funnel formed southwest of the city. The tornado first ravaged several communities southwest of Covington (including Fairview and Taylor Hills) prior to entering the city as a rapidly-intensifying storm, causing absolute devastation. Over 100,000 houses were destroyed, with a further 248,500 being damaged or indirectly affected by the storm.

See more detailed section below on this tornado.

EF0

NW of Boston

4:40 P.M. EST 1.3 Miles 2 Deaths - This tornado touched down outside of Boston, Kentucky and caused minor damage to trees and power lines in the area. The tornado resulted in the deaths of two people when it blew a car off road and into a nearby lake. The tornado then damaged some houses in the area before dissipating several minutes later.
EF1 Meade County 4:44 P.M. EST 1.9 Miles 4 Deaths - At 4:44 P.M. EST, a supercell storm complex had been experiencing rapid rotation, of which led to the formation of a violent tornado just east of Route 313. This storm afflicted multiple towns in Meade County, KY, destroying over 680 homes, caused widespread power outages, and an estimated $400 million in damages, even though the tornado peaked at EF1 strength, as well as resulting in four fatalities.
EF0

E of Louisville

4:48 P.M. EST 0.7 Miles 0 Deaths - Only minutes after the Meade County tornado formed, another tornado formed, only weaker and less organized. The tornado remained in a relatively rural area west of Louisville, having only caused damage to power lines and snapping trees along Echo Trail.
EF0

SE of Louisville

5:22 P.M. EST 0.4 Miles

Ohio

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
19 8 4 2 2 2 1

Ohio was the second most-active state during the super outbreak; falling only behind Indiana in terms of the amount of tornadoes and their strength; with tornadoes of every strength forming, and a record number of 19 tornadoes touching down, only to be beat out by the 1974 Super Outbreak. Ohio was also home to the second and final EF5 tornado during the outbreak, which later tore through parts of Akron and Canton; becoming the most northernward EF5 tornado ever to form in the United States, despite unfavorable terrain and massive quantities of trees. It later stayed on the ground for an incredible three hours; moving sporadically through several neighborhoods in the Akron-Canton Metro Area. Other tornadoes were reported across the state; with a large EF4 tearing through parts of Sandusky and later dissipating over Lake Erie as a powerful waterspout that caused damage across South Bass Island; with the tourist town of Put-in-Bay being hardest hit In addition, a second EF4 tornado slammed Geauga County; inflicting mass destruction upon the small towns of Chardon and Burton. A plethora of other minor tornadoes were reported across the state, adding to the already extensive damage caused by the three catastrophic tornadoes that touched down. Damage from the severe storms that hit the state un-related to the tornadoes themselves also occurred.

In addition, damaging winds and large hail was also reported from the squall lines that struck the state that day, with some being more intense than the lines of storms that struck Indiana the previous day. The most powerful gust reported exceeded a 1-minute sustained speed of 110 MPH - having occurred along the lakeshore in downtown Cleveland, blowing out windows and uprooting hundreds of trees. Power outages were reported across the state due to heavy tornado damage as well as straight-line winds exceeding hurricane-force.

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