1994 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak

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This article is about the 1994 tornado outbreak. For other uses, see Palm Sunday tornado outbreak (disambiguation).
1994 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak
Palm sun 2.JPG
A map of that day's tornado tracks
Date(s) March 27, 1994
Duration 21 hours, 45 minutes
Tornadoes caused 29
Maximum rated tornado F4 (Fujita scale)
Damages $140 million (2005 USD)
Casualties 40 (491 injuries)

The 1994 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak was the third notable tornado outbreak that occurred on Palm Sunday, and the second to take place in the southeastern United States. This one was on March 27, 1994. It was the most notable tornado event of the year.

Forty people were killed in the outbreak and 491 were injured. A total of 29 tornadoes ripped through Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, causing $140 million in damage.

Outbreak summary[edit]

Unlike the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of April 11, 1965, this outbreak was mainly confined to the Southeastern United States. What was unusual about this outbreak was that it was at its strongest during the late morning hours. A very intense supercell thunderstorm formed a wall cloud 1-mile (1.6 km) southwest of Ragland in St. Clair County, Alabama. A tornado spun out of the storm and headed toward Piedmont. At 11:39 a.m., it slammed into the Goshen United Methodist Church, collapsing the roof on the congregation during a Palm Sunday service. It claimed 20 lives and injured 90. Two other houses of worship were destroyed mid-service as well. The tornado was an F4 on the Fujita scale. The supercell that formed this tornado ended up tracking for 200 miles (320 km) to South Carolina.

Tornado table[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
10 6 4 7 2 0 29

March 27 event[edit]

List of reported tornadoes - Sunday, March 27, 1994
F#
Location
County
Time (UTC)
Path length
Damage
Texas
F0 NW of Mineral Wells[1] Bexar 0705 0.1 miles (0.16 km) Brief touchdown reported by storm chasers with no damage.[1]
Alabama
F4 SSW of Ragland to NE of Rock Run St. Clair, Calhoun, Cherokee 1655 50 miles (80 km) 22 deathsSee section on this tornado
F2 S of Guntersville[1] Marshall 1702 6 miles (9.7 km) Tornado damaged 103 homes just south of Guntersville and later passed near Lake Guntersville State Park. It also partially destroyed the roof of a nursing home. 30 injuries.[1]
F3 Rainsville/Sylvania to Henagar[1] DeKalb 1732 23 miles (37 km) Tornado destroyed 16 homes, 13 mobile homes, two businesses, and 12 poultry houses. Was initially rated F4 in Storm Data, then downgraded to F3 officially.[1] 20 injuries. Another, stronger, EF5 tornado struck the Rainsville area on April 27, 2011.
F0 SW of Nectar[1] Blount 1757 2.5 miles (4.0 km) Weak tornado damaged six homes, blew down electrical lines and trees, and destroyed three greenhouses.[1]
F1 NE of Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa 2202 2 miles (3.2 km) Tornado hit unpopulated area near Lake Tuscaloosa, from redeveloping afternoon storms. Transmission towers downed.[1]
F2 Helena to Pelham/Indian Springs[1] Shelby 2331 12 miles (19 km) Tornado extensively damaged businesses and mobile homes and caused minor damage to a school in Pelham. Dissipated just west of Meadowbrook.[1]
Georgia
F4 SE of Rome to ESE of Jasper[2] Floyd, Bartow, Cherokee, Pickens 1714 50 miles (80 km) 3 deathsSee section on this tornado
F0 N of Lafayette[2] Walker 1755 1.5 miles (2.4 km) Weak tornado damaged some roofs and snapped trees along a discontinuous path.[2]
F0 S of Lafayette Walker 1755 1 mile (1.6 km) Second tornado in the Lafayette area downed trees in uninhabited areas.[2]
F1 Lookout Mountain[2] Walker 1815 1 mile (1.6 km) Tornado "destroyed five single story mixed brick and wood homes" but only briefly existed before dissipating.[2]
F3 NW of Dahlonega to NNE of Clarkesville[2] Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Habersham 1817 45 miles (72 km) 3 deathsSee section on this tornado
F0 W of Rome Floyd 1830 3 miles (4.8 km) Tornado hit just north of Coosa and felled many trees along its brief path.[2]
F3 S of Adairsville to NE of Jasper[2] Bartow, Gordon, Cherokee, Pickens 1901 40 miles (64 km) 9 deathsSee section on this tornado
F3 NW of Dahlonega to NE of Cleveland[2] Lumpkin, White 1923 22 miles (35 km) 3 deathsSee section on this tornado
F2 ESE of Adairsville[2] Bartow 1935 2 miles (3.2 km) Hit same area that was damaged by an earlier F3 tornado which killed nine people. Went through Pleasant Valley just like the F3, but while only at F2 intensity. Destroyed or badly damaged five to seven homes in Pleasant Valley.[2]
F0 NW of Dawsonville[2] Dawson 1942 4 miles (6.4 km) Tornado uprooted several large trees.[2]
F3 Tallulah Falls to Walhalla, SC[3] Habersham, Rabun, Oconee (SC) 2004 30 miles (48 km) Tornado badly damaged five buildings at Tallulah Falls before descending a 500-foot (150 m) cliff.[2] Destroyed about 60 homes in Oconee County, South Carolina, with $5.5 million in damage there.[3] Was part of the Piedmont, Alabama, tornado family as items from that town, more than 140 miles (230 km) to the southwest, were found at Tallulah Falls.[2] Was F2 at Tallulah Falls[2] and F3 in South Carolina.[3]
F3 NW of Cedartown to SE of Rome[2] Floyd 2301 20 miles (32 km) See section on this tornado
F1 SE of Cave Spring to S of Rome[2] Floyd 2304 10 miles (16 km) Badly damaged roofs of frail wood homes and either uprooted or broke pine trees in half.[2]
F1 WNW of Bremen[2] Haralson 0035 2 miles (3.2 km) Moderately damaged roofs and badly damaged a mobile home along with a chicken coop while uprooting or snapping trees.[2]
F0 NW of Marietta[2] Cobb 0110 2 miles (3.2 km) Produced minimal roof damage to three homes and downed trees. Dissipated near Lake Allatoona in suburban Atlanta. [2]
South Carolina
F2 NE of Inman to SE of Chesnee[3] to High Shoals, NC, area[4] Spartanburg, Cherokee, Cleveland (NC), Gaston (NC) 2055 45 miles (72 km) See section on this tornado
F1 Spartanburg to Blacksburg[3] Spartanburg, Cherokee 2130 35 miles (56 km) Tornado injured four people by falling trees and partially damaged roofs. Threw large tree branches onto homes and badly damaged a power substation. Numerous trees and power lines downed.[3]
F1 S of Landrum to NW of Chesnee[3] Greenville, Spartanburg 2140 19 miles (31 km) Tornado caused minimal F1 damage to roofs, outbuildings, trees, and power lines. Formed from the same supercell that produced the Tallulah Falls–Walhalla tornado.[3]
F3 NE of Clover[3] to Lake Wylie to Charlotte, NC York, Gaston (NC), Mecklenburg (NC) 2327 18 miles (29 km) Tornado produced F1 damage in South Carolina as it completely leveled a mobile home plus an outbuilding and badly damaged many others in Lake Wylie.[3] Later passed just south of downtown Charlotte. Tornado widened as it weakened, with strongest damage produced when tornado was very narrow. Two people were injured.
F0 Tigerville Greenville 0450 0.5 miles (0.80 km) Weak tornado displaced a garage roof, threw a boat, downed a large oak, and caused other negligible damage near the North Greenville University campus.[3]
North Carolina
F0 NE of Liberty Alamance 0040 0.5 miles (0.80 km) Brief touchdown in sparsely populated area.
F0 Asheboro Randolph 0100 0.5 miles (0.80 km) Brief touchdown at the southeastern edge of Asheboro, with little damage.
Sources: Tornado History Project Data for March 27, 1994, SPC Storm Data

Notable tornadoes[edit]

Ohatchee/Piedmont, Alabama[edit]

The first violent and the deadliest tornado of the outbreak developed 1 mile (1.6 km) south-southwest of Ragland in St. Clair County, Alabama, at 10:55 a.m. CST. With a 45-to-55-mile-per-hour (72 to 89 km/h) forward speed, the tornado first destroyed buildings east of Ragland before killing a woman on a campground west of Neely Henry Lake. Just prior to entering Calhoun County, the tornado destroyed 18 homes and 20 mobile homes.[1] Upon crossing the north side of Ohatchee—which was later to be hit by an EF4 tornado on April 27, 2011—the tornado threw a van into a ditch, killing a man inside and injuring three other occupants. After causing the death on U.S. Route 431, it passed through sparsely-populated, wooded land about 4 to 5 miles (6.4 to 8.0 km) west-northwest of Piedmont. As it passed north of Piedmont, the tornado struck the Goshen United Methodist Church in the former community of Goshen, killing 20 people in the church and injuring 92.[1] The tornado also destroyed two nearby churches, but killed no one in their congregations.[5] Parishioners in the Goshen United Methodist Church apparently received no warning[6] while attending services and so were crushed to death as the walls and roof collapsed upon them.[5] After striking the church, the tornado continued on and later dissipated 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of Rock Run, near the Alabama–Georgia state line. Overall, the tornado killed 22 people.[1]

Rome–Canton–Jasper, Georgia[edit]

The second violent tornado of the outbreak developed in a rural area of Floyd County, Georgia, about 9 miles (14 km) southeast of Rome, at 1:14 p.m. EST. Upon touching down, the .125-mile (0.201 km) wide tornado uprooted large pines and oaks while causing F0 damage to five or six homes of "mixed brick and wood construction."[2] The tornado then moved northeast as it snapped trees before intensifying to F1 strength about 10 miles (16 km) west of Cartersville. During this, the tornado initially shrunk to .06 miles (0.097 km) wide, but then widened again to .125 miles (0.201 km) as it passed through Cassville, with F1 damage primarily to the roofs of 10–15 homes. The tornado blew down 20 large trees and damaged power lines in Cassville.[2]

Thereafter, the tornado increased greatly in size and intensity as it passed between White and Rydal, with the first and only F4 damage occurring in a rural area 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Canton. There, the 0.38-mile (0.61 km) wide tornado leveled "five two-story brick and wood homes" to the ground in the Indian Springs subdivision.[2] The tornado also severely damaged eight to 10 other homes and slightly damaged 12–15. Overall, the tornado was most destructive at Indian Springs and soon weakened as it continued northeast through wooded lands; however, its path briefly widened.[2] It killed two people in a trailer along Georgia State Route 140 in Bartow County and snapped 80-to-90-foot (24 to 27 m) tall pine trees nearby. Though the 1-mile (1.6 km) wide tornado impacted forested areas, it still caused major damage to 10 mobile homes and six permanent homes, as well as damage to four unspecified vehicles.[2]

Henceforth, the tornado continued to weaken to F2 intensity and contracted to .75 miles (1.21 km) wide as it passed into Pickens County, severely damaging 10–15 chicken coops along with 20–25 homes of brick and wood construction.[2] It killed one more person in a trailer before lifting from the ground about 6 miles (9.7 km) east-southeast of Jasper. Ultimately, it caused almost $7 million (1994 USD) in losses to properties and businesses in Bartow County alone, with another $1.5 million in losses in adjourning Pickens County.[2] The tornado killed three people and over 500,000 chickens along its track and leveled "thousands" of trees, with over $10 million in losses to agricultural interests.[2]

Dahlonega (first tornado)–Cleveland–Clarkesville, Georgia[edit]

A long-tracked tornado descended to the ground about 7 miles (11 km) north-northwest of Dawsonville at 2:17 p.m. EST. The tornado initially downed power lines and trees as it produced F0 damage in rural locations, but grew in size and intensity as it entered Lumpkin County. Widening to 0.25 miles (0.40 km) wide, the tornado caused widespread F2 damage to hilly terrain as it snapped 60-to-80-foot (18 to 24 m) tall pine trees. Upon reaching an area near Gordon Seabolt Road, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) west-northwest of Dahlonega, an elderly man was killed by flying debris.[2] Soon the tornado passed just 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of Dahlonega and later killed another elderly man in a mobile home 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of Dahlonega.

Thereafter, the tornado crossed the northwest slope of Yonah Mountain and then attained its peak intensity, F3 on the Fujita scale, as it broadened to 1.25 miles (2.01 km) wide and caused severe damage to homes about 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Cleveland. There, it "completely leveled" 10 homes and badly damaged 25–30 others.[2] The tornado then weakened to F2 strength and continued on to kill a person in a mobile home 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Clarkesville. It maintained intensity through rugged terrain until it lifted 6.5 miles (10.5 km) northeast of Clarkesville at 3:02 p.m. EST.[2] Along its path, the tornado caused over $17 million in property damage, killed three people and more than 500,000 chickens, and snapped "hundreds of thousands" of trees.[2]

Adairsville–Funkhouser–Jasper, Georgia[edit]

The second-deadliest tornado in the entire outbreak—and the deadliest of the outbreak in Georgia—touched down about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south of Adairsville in Bartow County at 3:01 p.m. EST. Proceeding to the northeast, the tornado quickly strengthened to F2 intensity as it severely damaged five to seven homes and snapped trees in half. Tornado winds blew trees onto a truck, killing its occupant inside.[2] Next, the tornado increased to F3 strength and widened to .75 miles (1.21 km) as it passed through Pleasant Valley. There, the tornado threw a 4,000-pound (1.8 t) pickup truck for 300 yards (0.17 mi) and destroyed or heavily damaged 25–30 homes of brick or wood construction.[2] The tornado was reported to be so large that it was indistinguishable from the cloud base as it passed through Pleasant Valley.

Afterward, the tornado retained F3 strength as it passed 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of Funkhouser and heavily damaged three to five homes of brick or wood construction. It went on to destroy or damage four homes near the intersections of Bartow, Gordon, and Pickens Counties. Entering Pickens County, the tornado grew to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, snapping most trees at their base, and killed six people in a trailer that was thrown 100 yards (300 ft).[2] It then killed two more people as it destroyed a single-story residence and a mobile home before lifting 3 miles (4.8 km) northeast of Jasper. It caused a total of $12,250,000 in damage and killed a total of nine people along its path.[2] A second, weaker, F2 tornado overlapped part of the path of this tornado and hit Pleasant Valley just 30 minutes after this F3 tornado left.

Dahlonega (second tornado)/Cleveland, Georgia[edit]

The second of two F3 tornadoes to hit near Dahlonega touched down 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northwest of that town at 3:23 p.m. EST. Only a minute later, it intensified to F2 intensity and instantly killed two people in a mobile home which disintegrated.[2] The tornado continued to intensify to F3 intensity as it caused a third and final death in a mobile home while snapping many large pines in rural areas north and northeast of Dahlonega. Then it fluctuated in intensity to F1 strength before passing 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Cleveland, causing significant damage to four businesses and ten homes.[2] Soon after, it re-intensified into an F3 tornado as it passed just .25 miles (0.40 km) south of the earlier F3 tornado while badly damaging 20 homes and destroying 15 in a rural subdivision. It then lifted after striking the subdivision and after causing $3.5 million in total damages. Overall the tornado killed three people.[2]

Chesnee, South Carolina/Boiling Springs/Cherryville, North Carolina[edit]

This long-tracked tornado destroyed two mobile homes, badly damaged another home, and ripped apart three transmission towers—all indicative of F2 damage—before crossing into North Carolina.[3] Upon entering North Carolina, the tornado downed three high-voltage transmission towers about 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Shelby. Just 300 yards (900 ft) to the northeast of the transmission towers, the tornado destroyed a home along with a large barn house, plus three additional transmission towers, four mobile homes, two vehicles, and a cinder-block structure nearby.[4] Nearing Boiling Springs, the still-F2 tornado struck Gardner–Webb University and damaged several vehicles which were parked on campus. Just afterward, it hit downtown Boiling Springs, destroying an apartment duplex, a flower shop, and a car-wash station.[4]

After leaving Boiling Springs, the tornado weakened to F1 intensity and leveled a greenhouse north of North Carolina Highway 150. It also blew down many trees before entering Shelby, damaging a church steeple and a billboard in town.[4] Thence it intensified somewhat and badly damaged homes, trees, and power lines before passing 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Cherryville. As it passed near Cherryville, the F1 tornado caused a porch roof to collapse east of North Carolina Highway 274. It also broke trees and blew a roof off a barn.[4] Farther along, the tornado also badly damaged three mobile homes. After crossing North Carolina Highway 279, the tornado finally dissipated as it approached the town of High Shoals in Gaston County.[4]

Cave Spring/Lindale, Georgia[edit]

The sixth and final F3–F4 tornado to hit Georgia on March 27 touched down 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Cedartown at about 7:00 p.m. EST. Though mainly impacting rural areas at first, it badly damaged four wood homes and blew down many trees with resultant F1 damage. The tornado appeared reddish to eyewitnesses as it passed through rugged terrain.[2] As it crossed near Georgia State Route 100, the tornado produced major roof damage to a few homes and destroyed a pair of chicken coops. Widening to 0.5 miles (0.80 km) wide, the tornado acquired a multiple vortex structure as residents observed two or three funnels rotating around the main vortex.[2] In southern Floyd County, about 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Cave Spring, the multiple-vortex tornado snapped trees in half and badly damaged five double-wide mobile homes along with three or four frail wood homes.

Afterward, the tornado strengthened to F2 intensity, causing more severe damage to wood homes, but soon contracted in size to .25 miles (0.40 km) wide and weakened into an F1 tornado.[2] However, as it neared to within 2.5 miles (4.0 km) southwest of Lindale, it widened yet again and rapidly strengthened into an F3 tornado as it passed through Leawood Estates. There, it reportedly leveled "fifteen mixed single and two story mixed brick and wood homes of poor construction,"[2] along with some homes that were being built. The tornado caused 30 injuries, including one of a man who was thrown 1,000 yards (0.57 mi) into the street across from his home. Residents reported continuous lightning preceding and during the passage of the tornado and were alerted by their dogs barking.[2] Some residents also reported a smaller tornado south of the primary one.

After hitting Leawood Estates at maximum intensity, the tornado weakened back into an F2 tornado and shrunk to .25 miles (0.40 km) wide as it passed 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Rome. There, it badly damaged three poorly built wood homes, destroyed four mobile homes, and uprooted large trees.[2] Farther along, it decreased in size to just .125 miles (0.201 km) wide but caused significant damage to 15–20 homes of brick and wood construction. As it passed 7.2 miles (11.6 km) southeast of Rome, the tornado degenerated into an F0 tornado over wooded farmland while causing major roof damage to a few homes before dissipating.[2] According to the National Weather Service, the tornado destroyed 55–60 homes and did at least some damage to 140–150 others, with total losses reaching $6,750,000.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena". Storm Data (Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce) 36 (3): 12–16. March 1994. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax "Late Reports". Storm Data (Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce) 36 (7): 278–289. July 1994. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena". Storm Data (Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce) 36 (3): 51–53. March 1994. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Late Reports". Storm Data (Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce) 36 (4): 213–215. April 1994. 
  5. ^ a b Bragg, Rick (April 2, 1994). "Piedmont Journal: Tried by Deadly Tornado, an Anchor of Faith Holds". New York Times. pp. 2–12. 
  6. ^ Applebome, Peter (March 29, 1994). "Across the Tornado Belt, the Rubble Is Real but the Losses Are So Hard to Grasp". The New York Times. pp. A20. 
  • Hamilton, David W., Yuh-Lang Lin, Ronald P. Weglarz, Michael L. Kaplan (1998). "[Jetlet Formation from Diabatic Forcing with Applications to the 1994 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak]". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).
  • Kaplan, Michael L., Yuh-Lang Lin, David W. Hamilton, Robert A. Rozumalski (1998). "[The Numerical Simulation of an Unbalanced Jetlet and Its Role in the Palm Sunday 1994 Tornado Outbreak in Alabama and Georgia]". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).
  • Koch, Steven E., David Hamilton, Devin Kramer, Adam Langmaid (1998). "[Mesoscale Dynamics in the Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak]". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).
  • Langmaid, Adam H., Allen J. Riordan (1998). "[Surface Mesoscale Processes during the 1994 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak]". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).

Further information[edit]

External links[edit]