1980 Grand Island tornado outbreak

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1980 Grand Island tornado outbreak
In this picture, there are two independent tornadoes on the ground marked by large debris clouds at ground level and are located a few hundred yards away from one another. The smaller tornado on the left is the first F1 to hit Grand Island. The 0.25 mile-wide tornado on the right is the second F3 to hit. Power flashes from electrical lines being destroyed by the ferocious winds illuminate the nighttime tornadoes.
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationJune 3, 1980
Tornadoes confirmed7
Max rating1F4 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak22 hours, 45 miuntes
Highest winds
  • In excess of 207 mph
Damage$ 300 million (1980 USD)
Casualties5 fatalities, appx 200 injuries
Areas affectedMidwestern and Northeastern United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The 1980 Grand Island tornado outbreak, also known as The Night of the Twisters, was a tornado outbreak that produced a series of destructive tornadoes that affected the city of Grand Island, Nebraska, on Tuesday, June 3, 1980. Seven tornadoes touched down in or near the city that night, killing five people and injuring 200.

The name generally referred to by Grand Island area residents for the event, "The Night of the Twisters", comes from the semi-fictionalized book of the same name, loosely based on the June 3rd, 1980 tornadoes, by author Ivy Ruckman, which in turn inspired a made-for-TV movie that premiered on The Family Channel (now Freeform) in February 1996. While the Grand Island tornado outbreak is best known for the Grand Island tornado family on June 3, the outbreak as a whole produced 18 tornadoes across two days, and caused severe damage as far east as Pennsylvania.[1]

Outbreak description[edit]

Map of surveyed tornado tracks through the Grand Island area by Dr T. Theodore Fujita.

The outbreak began on June 2, producing strong tornadoes in Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio, including one that struck the east side of Indianapolis. One fatality occurred near Crawfordsville, Indiana. Tornado activity continued on June 3, with additional strong tornadoes touching down in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Nebraska. Over a span of three hours on the evening of June 3, 1980, a slow-moving supercell complex moving across Grand Island, Nebraska, spawned several tornadoes. The resulting outbreak was one of the most unusual in United States history: The supercells moved over the city at only 8 mph (13 km/h); of the seven tornadoes, three of them were anticyclonic; and the tornadoes did not move in a straight line, with most looping back over their own path at least once.


Five people were killed by the tornadoes, over 200 more injured, and damages were estimated at more than $285 million (USD) ($600 million 2003 USD). In Nebraska, Tornado warnings allowed people to get to safety in time, which prevented a higher death toll. The South Locust Street area in Grand Island was hardest hit, struck by the fifth tornado of the night (an F4 tornado). Much of the rubble and debris left by the tornadoes was placed in a landfill that now forms Tornado Hill, a popular biking and sledding spot In Grand Island today.

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 0 3 8 4 3 0 18

June 2 event[edit]

List of confirmed tornadoes – Monday, June 2, 1980
Path length
Damage summary
F2 Covington area Fountain 1300 5 miles (8.0 km) A hardware store and four homes were destroyed in Covington.
F3 Waynetown to S of Crawfordsville Montgomery 1315 18 miles (29 km) 1 death – Near-F4 damage and serious injuries occurred south of Crawfordsville. One woman was killed when her trailer was obliterated and scattered over 30 acres. Caused $2,000,000 in damage and injured 16 people.
F2 Indianapolis Marion 1400 unknown Near-F3 struck the east side of Indianapolis, destroying four homes and damaging a dozen others. Flying debris caused a traffic accident on I-465. Six people were injured.
F2 New Palestine Hancock 1405 unknown Near-F3 tore apart many homes in town and ripped the roof off of a grocery store. A high school and an elementary school were heavily damaged. Four people were injured, including a woman who was trapped in the debris of her trailer home.
F2 S of Allerton Wayne 0630 5 miles (8.0 km) Tornado struck a farm, twisting the house off its foundation and destroying several outbuildings. Six train cars were derailed and another home lost its roof.
F2 Cincinnati to West Grove Appanoose, Davis 0705 20 miles (32 km) Trees were damaged and three homes were partially unroofed. Three trailer homes were destroyed, and other homes and trailers were damaged. A Masonic Lodge was damaged as well. There were five injuries, all of which occurred in trailer homes.
F4 SW of Davis City to S of Corydon Decatur, Wayne 1525 32 miles (51 km) Long-track tornado completely destroyed a farmhouse near Davis City, and unroofed a fertilizer plant.
F2 NE of Blackford Jackson 1830 8 miles (13 km) Two homes lost their roofs, and seven farm buildings were destroyed in rural area.

June 3 event[edit]

List of confirmed tornadoes – Tuesday, June 3, 1980
Path length
Damage summary
F3 NW of Grand Island Hall 41°01′N 98°24′W / 41.02°N 98.4°W / 41.02; -98.4 1945 14.5 miles (23.3 km) 1 death – Tornado touched down 11 miles northwest of Grand Island. First of seven tornadoes to hit the city in just over 2 hours. Farm homes outside of town were torn apart, and a woman was killed while trying to drive to a relative's house. The tornado killed 1, injured 25, and caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages. Although the straight line path of the tornado was only 7.0 miles (11.3 km), the actual length was over double because the track was highly unusual in that it looped and crossed itself numerous times. Tornado had a surveyed path width of 0.4 miles (0.6 km).[2]
F1 N Grand Island Hall 40°57′N 98°22′W / 40.95°N 98.37°W / 40.95; -98.37 unknown 0.8 miles (1.3 km) Small anticyclonic tornado briefly touched down in the northern edges of Grand Island, just east of the first tornado. Second of seven tornadoes to hit the city in just over 2 hours. The tornado caused an estimated $25,000 in damages and five injuries. First of three anticyclonic tornadoes.[2]
F3 Grand Island Hall 40°58′N 98°21′W / 40.97°N 98.35°W / 40.97; -98.35 2005 3.5 miles (5.6 km) Tornado touched down north of Grand Island and moved into the city near Airport Road, between US 281 and Webb Road. Third of seven tornadoes to hit the city in just over 2 hours. The tornado injured 40 and caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages. Although most damage was rated F0, several homes were heavily damaged and some F3 damage was noted near the veteran's home, which had windows blown out. Second of three anticyclonic tornadoes. Tornado path length was 3.5 miles (5.6 km) and maximum surveyed path width was 0.3 miles (0.5 km).[2]
F1 SE of Grand Island Hall 40°30′N 98°19′W / 40.5°N 98.31°W / 40.5; -98.31 unknown 2.5 miles (4.0 km) Tornado touched down southeast of Grand Island and moved toward the southwest, west, and even north. Last of three anticyclonic tornadoes.[2]
F4 Grand Island Merrick, Hall 41°14′N 99°05′W / 41.24°N 99.09°W / 41.24; -99.09 2116 6.0 miles (9.7 km) 4 deaths – Tornado touched down just east of Grand Island, then moved west into the city. Once within the city, the tornado turned south and followed Locust Street, causing some of the most intense damage of the outbreak to businesses and neighboring residences, some of which were "obliterated". Numerous homes, vehicles, businesses, trees, and power lines were destroyed. Damages exceeded $200 million, and 110 people were injured. Tornado path length was 6.0 miles (9.7 km) and the surveyed path width was 0.6 miles (1.0 km).[2]
F2 SE of Grand Island Hall 40°54′N 98°17′W / 40.9°N 98.28°W / 40.9; -98.28 2125 6.0 miles (9.7 km) Tornado touched down southeast of Grand Island. Sixth of the seven tornadoes that hit Grand Island. The tornado caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages and 18 injuries. Tornado path length was 6.0 miles (9.7 km) with a surveyed path width of 0.3 miles (0.5 km).[2]
F1 SE of Grand Island Hall, Hamilton 40°54′N 98°17′W / 40.9°N 98.28°W / 40.9; -98.28 13.4 miles (21.6 km) Tornado touched down southeast of Grand Island. Last of the seven tornadoes in the area. The tornado caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages and two injuries. The tornado tracked across mostly rural areas and avoided many homes. Path length was 13.4 miles (21.6 km).[2]
F4 Natrona Heights to Vandergrift to Apollo Allegheny, Westmoreland, Armstrong 1230 14 miles (22.5 km) A restaurant and two stores were severely damaged in Natrona Heights, with 12 injuries at that location. Seven homes were damaged in Vandergrift, and a trailer park in Apollo was devastated. One home was nearly leveled by this tornado. Caused $6,000,000 in damage and injured 140 people. Rated F3 by Grazulis.
F2 N of Saltsburg Indiana 1305 6 miles (9.7 km) A half dozen homes, a helicopter, and three trailers were torn apart. Six people were injured.
West Virginia
F3 Ridgedale to Crellin, Maryland Monongalia, Preston, Garrett (MD) 1430 28 miles (45.1 km) In West Virginia, 28 homes were destroyed and 102 others were damaged. Thirteen businesses and nine public buildings were damaged as well. Reedsville was hard hit. A mobile home park there was destroyed, and a two-year-old child was thrown nearly a mile into a field, but survived. The tornado continued into Maryland where two trailer homes were destroyed, 15 permanent homes were damaged, and 12 farms were damaged. Caused $7,000,000 in damage and 19 injuries. Most destructive West Virginia tornado since 1944.

Fictionalized accounts of the event[edit]

Damage from the Grand Island tornadoes.


In 1984, a semi-fictionalized book version of this significant tornado outbreak by children's author Ivy Ruckman, a native of Nebraska, was released under the title Night of the Twisters. The book told the story of Danny Hatch, a pre-teen and his family, and what happened to them as the event took place.

Television film[edit]

The book inspired a made-for-cable television original movie of the same name, that premiered on February 14, 1996, on The Family Channel (now Freeform). The movie version still centered on the Hatch Family and most of the characters in the book were adapted to the film. However, there were several discrepancies from the movie and the book version. The most notable being the town in the movie is changed from Grand Island to the fictional town of Blainsworth, which Ivy Ruckman reportedly was disappointed about as it took some of the reality out of the actual event. Danny's father's name is changed to Jack in the film (played by John Schneider) and is mentioned to be his stepfather as Danny's real father is revealed to have died in a plane crash when Danny was six years old. One somewhat prominent character in the movie was Bob Iverson (played by David Ferry), who was not included in the book.

Danny's mother occupation is also changed to waitress. The last scene in the film in which the Hatch family tries to outrun a tornado in a car lent to them at a shelter was added specifically for the film and was not in the book, either. Danny and his friend Arthur's (played by Devon Sawa and Amos Crawley) ages are also changed to their mid-teens (though their ages are never mentioned in the film).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "NWS Hastings: June 3, 1980 Grand Island Tornadoes". NWS. Retrieved April 18, 2019.

External links[edit]