April 6–9, 1998 tornado outbreak

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For the 2005 tornado in Birmingham, UK see 2005 Birmingham tornado. For other tornadoes in the history of Birmingham, Alabama, see Birmingham Tornado (disambiguation).
April 6–9, 1998 tornado outbreak sequence
Birmingham Supercell Radar.gif
Radar shot of the Birmingham supercell with the hook echo tornado signature located near Oak Grove.
Date(s) April 6–9, 1998
Duration ~4 days
Tornadoes caused 62
Maximum rated tornado F5 (Fujita scale)
Damages unknown
Casualties 41

The April 6–9, 1998 tornado outbreak was a large tornado outbreak that started on April 6 across the Great Plains and ended on April 9 across the Carolinas and Georgia. A total of 62 tornadoes touched down from the Middle Atlantic States to the Midwestern United States and Texas. The outbreak is infamous for producing a deadly F5 that tore through the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, killing 32 people. The Birmingham tornado was one of only two F5 tornadoes that year. The other hit in Lawrence County, Tennessee on April 16, as part of the same outbreak as the 1998 Nashville tornadoes. This tornado outbreak was responsible for 41 deaths, including 7 in Georgia and 34 in Alabama.

Birmingham area F5 tornado[edit]

Tornado track of the Jefferson County F5 tornado

Shortly after 7:30 P.M. on April 8th, the deadliest tornado of the outbreak touched down in extreme eastern Tuscaloosa County and cut a 31-mile long (49 km), 3/4-mile wide swath through multiple Birmingham suburbs, producing damage ranging from F3 to F5 and causing massive destruction before lifting in the western limits of the City of Birmingham, just northwest of the junctions of Interstates 20, 59 and 65. The worst of the destruction occurred across the Oak Grove, Rock Creek and McDonald Chapel areas. The second area affected by F5 damage was also devastated by a violent tornado in 1956 that tracked through the same areas hit by this storm. Debris from the tornado was scattered across central Alabama as far north as sections of Blount County, and extensive deforestation occurred along the majority of the path.[1][1]

Tornado damage from the Jefferson County F5 tornado (courtesy of NWS Birmingham, Alabama)

The tornado began in a rural area of Tuscaloosa County, causing only F0 damage in that area. The tornado reached F1 intensity after it entered Jefferson County, and then rapidly intensified to an F3 as it slammed into Oak Grove, an unincorporated town west of Rock Creek. Oak Grove was one of the hardest hit locations, with many structures destroyed in the area. Oak Grove High School sustained major structural damage, with the elementary school portion destroyed. The school building was rebuilt two years later and reopened a mile away from the damaged area. No one inside the school was killed, but a group of cheerleaders practicing at the school's gymnasium escaped disaster with only minor injuries when a wall prevented a portion of the roof from falling on them. The tornado caused its first three fatalities in Oak Grove, which occurred when a mobile home completely disintegrated, throwing the occupants across the street, only one of that family survived. The Oak Grove fire station was severely damaged as well.[2][3]

The tornado continued to intensify dramatically as it moved northeast, reaching F5 intensity as it struck Rock Creek. Many homes in the town were leveled or swept completely away, and the roof of Rock Creek Church of God was blown off. Several cars parked in the church parking lot were thrown into a 50-foot ravine. The church was turned into makeshift trauma center immediately after the tornado. A total of eleven people were killed in Rock Creek. The far western fringes of Concord were impacted in this area as well (particularly the Warrior River Road area). The tornado weakened slightly to F4 intensity as it struck the neighboring community of Sylvan Springs, where many additional homes were completely leveled, and four people were killed. Homes were damaged and destroyed just outside of Pleasant Grove as well.[4][5]

Continuing past Pleasant Grove, the tornado began to encroach on Birmingham's inner suburbs. This tornado regained its maximum F5 strength as it tore through the communities of Edgewater and McDonald Chapel. Fourteen people lost their lives in that area and the storm swept away numerous homes. The tornado's effects were noticed around the same time by the ABC 33/40 Birmingham tower camera, which was pointed toward the western suburbs. Though it was dark, a massive power failure occurred in western Birmingham, when several transmission lines coming from the Miller Steam Plant electric generating station were knocked off line. This was noticed during the long-form weather coverage on 33/40, which lasted most of the evening. (The station, and several of its competitors, has a policy of pre-empting regular programming and broadcasting only severe weather information when a tornado warning is in effect for any part of its coverage area.) The storm began to weaken somewhat as it crossed State Route 269 into the northern Birmingham neighborhood of Pratt City, though it was still very powerful. F3 damage and several injuries occurred in Pratt City before the tornado abruptly dissipated. Had the tornado remained on the ground, it would have gone into the northern sections of downtown Birmingham. A few miles further to the east, the Birmingham International Airport could have been affected as well. The storm lifted before reaching these sections of Birmingham. However, a new F2 tornado touched down again in neighboring St. Clair County, where two people were killed.[6][7]

The tornado was at the time the seventh deadliest in Alabama history, killing one more person than in a tornado that hit Alabama on March 21, 1932. One young boy died nine days after this event from head injuries. His father was paralyzed from the waist down, and his mother suffered severe injuries. Another mother and her two children, despite taking shelter in their underground basement, were killed when hundreds of pounds of debris was blown onto them. Overall, 32 people were killed by the tornado and hundreds more were injured.[8][9]

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
total
Alabama 34 Jefferson 32
St. Clair 2
Georgia 7 Bryan 2
De Kalb 1
Liberty 1
Long 3
Totals 41
All deaths were tornado-related

Tornado table[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
39 13 7 2 0 1 62

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

April 6 event[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
Texas
F0 N of Elliott Wilbarger 2313 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown in a field.
Iowa
F0 NE of Adaza Greene 2315 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 S of Dayton Webster 2355 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 NE of Ralston Greene 0000 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
Kansas
F1 E of Schoenchen Ellis 2325 3.3 miles
(5.3 km)
Damage to a metal building, a chicken house and a quonset hut. 2 people were injured.
Oklahoma
F0 SE of Velma Stephens 0145 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief tornado in an open field.
Source: Tornado History Project - April 6, 1998 Storm Data

April 7 event[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
Illinois
F0 SW of Eden Peoria 2101 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 NW of Clear Lake Cass 2110 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
Caused minor damage to 5 cabins.
F2 NE of Clear Lake Mason 2120 3 miles
(4.8 km)
A frame house was moved from its foundation with an exterior wall blown off. Three outbuildings, two grain bins, and a barn were destroyed as well.
F1 NW of Bath Mason 2135 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
Tornado damaged a frame house and destroyed its garage. Ten homes sustained moderate to major damage, with several others along with businesses suffering minor damage. Another garage was destroyed as well.
F0 NW of Ormonde Warren 2231 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F0 Vermont area Fulton 2235 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown in a field.
F0 Monmouth area (1st tornado) Warren 2242 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F1 Monmouth area (2nd tornado) Warren 2252 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
Farm buildings were damaged or destroyed.
F0 SW of Havana Mason 2255 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F1 NE of Monmouth Warren 2302 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F2 NE of Havana Fulton, Mason 2304 11 miles
(17.6 km)
A mobile home and a machine shed were destroyed. Irrigation equipment was overturned and a pumping station was damaged.
F0 NW of Mount Pulaski Logan 2305 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 S of Gerlaw Warren 2313 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with damage to a cemetery.
F0 NW of Moweaqua Christian 2314 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 NE of Pleak Shelby 2328 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown in a field.
F0 SE of Todds Point Shelby 2340 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown in a field.
F2 S of Cadwell to S of Arthur Moultrie, Douglas 0008 11 miles
(17.6 km)
29 homes and several barns and outbuildings were damaged or destroyed. One mobile home was blown off of its foundation. 8 people were injured.
F0 SE of Hartsburg Logan 0023 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Damage was limited to trees.
F0 N of Hindsboro (1st tornado) Douglas 0042 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
A machine shed was destroyed.
F0 NW of Hindsboro (2nd tornado) Douglas 0058 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
Caused damage to power poles and outbuildings.
F0 S of Newman Douglas 0104 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown in a field with no damage.
F0 N of Brocton Edgar 0111 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
A shed was destroyed and utility poles were damaged.
F0 Chrisman area Edgar 0115 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
A barn was damaged, and debris from the structure was thrown and smashed windows of homes and businesses.
F0 SE of Sidell Vermilion 0120 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 NW of Metcalf Edgar 0129 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 NE of Chrisman Edgar 0149 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
One home, 2 barns, and a machine shed suffered roof damage.
Missouri
F1 SW of Wayland Missouri 2120 2.5 miles
(4 km)
2 machine sheds and a barn were destroyed, and a mobile home was flipped over.
Iowa
F0 W of Fort Madison Lee 2145 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 Fort Madison area Lee 2200 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 N of New Boston Lee 2202 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
One home sustained minor roof damage.
Indiana
F0 NW of Dana Vermilion 0133 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
A pole barn was destroyed.
F1 W of North Union Montgomery 0245 1.2 miles
(1.9 km)
A garage and a pole barn were destroyed, while the roof of another barn was damaged.
F0 E of Willisville Pike 0251 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
Brief touchdown in a field.
Source: Tornado History Project - April 7, 1998 Storm Data

April 8 event[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
Texas
F0 S of Driftwood Hays 0940 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
F0 NW of Buda Hays 0957 1 miles
(1.6 km)
Louisiana
F1 NE of Haynesville Claiborne 1243 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Caused damage to carport roofs and patio covers.
Alabama
F1 S of Heath Covington 1520 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Tornado damaged a mobile home and the roof of a motel.
F3 S of Gordo to N of Northport Pickens, Tuscaloosa 0001 19.5 miles
(31.2 km)
Tornado was a precursor to the Birmingham F5. Traveled through rural areas north of the city of Tuscaloosa, with five homes and 11 mobile homes destroyed. 24 homes and 13 mobile homes were also damaged, and two people were injured.
F5 N of Kellerman to Birmingham Tuscaloosa, Jefferson 0042 30.3 miles
(48.5 km)
32 deaths - See this section
F1 E of Lakeview DeKalb 0123 1.8 miles
(2.9 km)
A few barns were destroyed.
F2 N of Pell City St. Clair 0156 14.4 miles
(23 km)
2 deaths - This tornado was spawned by the same supercell that produced the Birmingham F5. It remained over rural areas for 14 miles (22 km) and partially destroyed Bethel Baptist Church in Odenville. 26 homes and mobile homes, along with other buildings were destroyed in the Coal City area. About 90 other homes and mobile homes suffered minor to major damage. The two fatalities occurred in a mobile home. 12 others were injured.
Arkansas
F0 Sunset area Crittenden 2320 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
Damage was limited to trees.
Tennessee
F0 S of Lawrenceburg Lawrence 0000 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
Damage was limited to trees.
F1 Manchester area Coffee 0100 1 miles
(1.6 km)
Caused roof damage to several buildings in downtown Manchester.
Georgia
F1 N of Tallapoosa Haralson 0330 3.5 miles
(5.6 km)
One mobile home was destroyed while 36 homes, 7 businesses, and 2 churches were damaged
F2 Smyrna to NW of Buckhead Cobb, Fulton 0420 3.5 miles
(5.6 km)
A commercial building, a fill-in station, and a car dealership sustained heavy damage, with over one half of a million dollars in damage to cars. Damage to other buildings also occurred and 4 people were injured.
F2 Dunwoody to N of Lawrenceville DeKalb, Gwinnett 0435 19 miles
(30.4 km)
1 death - See article on this tornado - 5000 homes were damaged to varying degrees. There was also heavy damage to several buildings at DeKalb College. In addition to the fatality, 10 others were injured.
Source: Tornado History Project - April 8, 1998 Storm Data

April 9 event[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
Georgia
F3 NE of Pembroke to W of Coldbrook Bryan, Effingham 0945 8 miles
(12.8 km)
2 deaths - In Bryan County, 74 homes and other buildings were damaged with 14 of them destroyed, including 6 mobile homes, two frame houses, two brick homes and four other buildings. In Effingham County, 40 homes were damaged, with six mobile homes destroyed. 17 other people were injured.
F2 E of Donald to Richmond Hill Long, Liberty, Bryan 1035 24.5 miles
(39.2 km)
4 deaths - Ten mobile homes were destroyed in Rye Patch with two others damaged. In Fort Stewart, 55 buildings were damaged including 7 destroyed. 7 other people were injured.
South Carolina
F1 W of Hardeeville Jasper 1022 1 miles
(1.6 km)
Several buildings and homes were damaged.
Ohio
F0 NE of Copley Summit 1745 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
Minor roof damage occurred.
F0 NW of North Eaton Lorain 1745 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 SW of Windham Portage 1830 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
F0 Leavittsburg area Trumbull 1928 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief touchdown with no damage.
Pennsylvania
F1 NE of New Brighton Beaver 1830 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
A cinder block warehouse was damaged.
Virginia
F0 Chesapeake area Chesapeake 2000 5 miles
(8 km)
Damage was limited to trees that fell on some homes.
Source: Tornado History Project - April 9, 1998 Storm Data

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "April 8, 1998 tornado". NWS Birmingham. NOAA. June 17, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ Legates, David (1999). "WARNING RESPONSE AND RISK BEHAVIOR IN THE OAK GROVE - BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, TORNADO OF 08 APRIL 1998". Colorado.edu. University of Oklahoma. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ "April 8, 1998 tornado". NWS Birmingham. NOAA. June 17, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  4. ^ Legates, David (1999). "WARNING RESPONSE AND RISK BEHAVIOR IN THE OAK GROVE - BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, TORNADO OF 08 APRIL 1998". Colorado.edu. University of Oklahoma. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  5. ^ "April 8, 1998 tornado". NWS Birmingham. NOAA. June 17, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ Legates, David (1999). "WARNING RESPONSE AND RISK BEHAVIOR IN THE OAK GROVE - BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, TORNADO OF 08 APRIL 1998". Colorado.edu. University of Oklahoma. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  7. ^ "April 8, 1998 tornado". NWS Birmingham. NOAA. June 17, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  8. ^ Legates, David (1999). "WARNING RESPONSE AND RISK BEHAVIOR IN THE OAK GROVE - BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, TORNADO OF 08 APRIL 1998". Colorado.edu. University of Oklahoma. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  9. ^ "April 8, 1998 tornado". NWS Birmingham. NOAA. June 17, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]