Discover the Most Powerful Tornado to Ever Slice Through Alabama

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: May 11, 2023
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Alabama is a southern state that is frequently struck by powerful storms. Several times each year, these storms spawn tornadoes that sweep through the state, bringing about widespread destruction. Some of the twisters are stronger than others, though. Learn about the most powerful tornado to ever slice through Alabama! Find out when it struck, what places were affected by the tornado, and the tornado’s strength!

How Many Tornadoes Strike Alabama Each Year?

Tornado formation

Tornadoes form when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air.

©Tsyntseus Anastasiia/

Alabama is one of the top ten states that receive the most frequent tornadoes. That may come as a surprise to some people since the state is not within the area traditionally called Tornado Alley. Nevertheless, about 40 to 60 tornadoes strike the state every year.

That’s a far cry from Texas, a state that sees about 130 or more per year. Yet, Alabama is far smaller than Texas. The tornadoes that hit Alabama are frequently a product of spring thunderstorm systems that move through the region. However, hurricane landfalls can also fuel an uptick in tornado activity in the area.

Alabama is struck by many tornadoes each year, and it has the misfortune of tying Oklahoma for the state with the most confirmed EF5 tornadoes on record. EF5 tornadoes are the most powerful, destructive twisters based on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

How Are Tornadoes Categorized?

Tornadoes are divided into categories based on their power and destructiveness. Specifically, tornadoes are categorized by their recorded wind velocity. In the past, the Fujita Scale primarily used wind speed as an indicator of the tornado’s power. The scale went from F0 to F5, with F5 tornadoes being incredibly powerful.

Since 2007, meteorologists have used the Enhanced Fujita Scale to measure the power of tornadoes based on their wind speed as well as other indicators of the tornado’s power. Together, these factors help surveyors more accurately describe the tornado.

Consider the following chart that describes the wind speeds of each rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale.

Enhanced Fujita ScaleWind Velocity
EF065 to 85 mph
EF186 to 110 mph
EF2111 to 135 mph
EF3136 to 165 mph
EF4166 to 200 mph
EF5Over 200 mph

An EF5 tornado is incredibly powerful, capable of reducing buildings to rubble, tearing plant life out of the ground, and hurtling heavy objects for long distances. Most tornadoes are less than an EF4 on the scale, but all tornadoes have some potential for destruction.

What Was the Most Powerful Tornado to Strike Alabama?


An EF5 tornado struck Alabama on April 27, 2011.

©Minerva Studio/

The most powerful tornado to ever slice through Alabama was the EF5 2011 Hackleburg–Phil Campbell Tornado. This powerful twister was part of the 2011 Super Outbreak, and it caused incredible damage and also caused the most deaths of a single tornado in Alabama history.

The estimated wind speed of this tornado reached 210 mph. That’s not the strongest tornado ever recorded, but it’s the highest wind speed recorded in Alabama.

The 2011 Hackleburg-Phil Campbell Tornado struck Alabama on the afternoon of April 27, 2011. It was not the only twister to hit the region that day or even that week, though. From April 25 to April 28, 2011, much of the Southeast and Midwest were slammed by tornadoes. For those four days, 360 tornadoes touched down throughout the U.S., setting a new record.

The twister that struck Alabama was the strongest of all the tornadoes spawned during that time, too. The tornado plowed through northern Alabama for over 2.5 hours. The greatest width reached by a single vortex was about three-quarters of a mile. This was a massive, powerful tornado.

The tornado tore the bark from trees, swept away homes, and tossed cars and other heavy vehicles. By the time it dissipated, the twister killed 72 people and injured almost 150 others.

What Animals Were Affected by the Strongest Alabama Twister?

Many animals live throughout Alabama, and they were also impacted by the storm and tornado. The area struck by the twister is rather rural, so a variety of animals could have been affected by the tornado. Some of the most likely animals harmed by the twister include:

These are just a handful of birds that were most likely hurt during this tornado. The tornado harmed other animals as well.

What Was the Deadliest Tornado in Alabama History?

Destroyed business and homes in Tuscaloosa after an EF 4 tornado hit the city on April 27, 2011.

The same system that produced the EF5 also produced a powerful, deadly EF4 in Tuscaloosa.

©Gregory Simpson/

The deadliest tornado in Alabama history was the 2011 Hackleburg-Phil Campbell Tornado that killed 72 people. This tornado was one of the few EF5s to ever hit the state. However, it was not the only tornado to strike the state that day.

The same outbreak produced the EF4 2011 Tuscaloosa–Birmingham Tornado. This tornado touched down an hour after the EF5 twister, bringing winds of 190 mph to the area. Throughout its duration, the twister killed 64 people and injured over 1,500! The tornado was twice as wide as the one that struck Hackleburg, and it ran through some areas with much higher populations. April 27, 2011, was one of the deadliest days for tornadoes in the United States, and it is certainly the deadliest in recent years.

The most powerful tornado to ever slice through Alabama did not strike all that long ago. Tornadoes appear to be becoming more frequent and damaging in this part of the South as Tornado Alley appears to be moving eastward. While better detection methods may be a cause for some increases in recorded tornadoes, climate change could also be playing a role in more tornadoes striking this part of the country.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © artofvisionn/

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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