Discover the Most Powerful Tornado to Ever Whip Through Arkansas

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: May 11, 2023
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Tornadoes are devastating forces of nature that can tear buildings apart, toss vehicles, and end lives. While every tornado is strong to an extent, some of them are much more powerful than others. The state of Arkansas may not be within the infamous Tornado Alley, a region of the United States that experiences frequent twisters, but the state still gets a lot of tornadoes per year. Learn about the most powerful tornado to ever whip through Arkansas including where it hit and what damage it did!

How Is Tornado Strength Measured?

Joplin, MO tornado damage

The Joplin Tornado was an EF5 twister that killed 158 people, injured 1,150, and accrued $2.8 billion in damages.

©Melissa Brandes/

The strength of a tornado is measured according to several factors. Starting in 2007, tornado damage was surveyed according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This system assigns an EF Rating starting with EF0 and reaching EF5.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale ratings are based on the tornado’s wind speed along with damage indicators and degrees of damage. That way, the scale can provide a good overview of the true power of the tornado.  

Essentially, this scale is still a wind measurement, and the following values represent the modern scale:

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

Also, the type of damage is taken into account, from very minor surveyable damage in some cases to incredible damage where homes and cars are blown away.

Scientists have recorded relatively few EF5 tornadoes throughout the United States. Only 59 tornadoes of F5 or EF5 intensity have struck the U.S. since humans recorded them. The most recent one was in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013.

What Was the Most Powerful Tornado to Ever Whip Through Arkansas?

Tornadoes in an Oklahoma farmyard

Sneed, Arkansas was the site of the strongest twister in Arkansas.

©Eugene R. Thieszen/

The most powerful tornado to ever whip through Arkansas was an F5 tornado that hit Jackson County in 1929 with estimated wind speeds of over 261 mph. The storm is often called the Sneed Tornado, and it was the only F5 to ever strike the state.  

The tornado struck on April 10, 1929, and it stayed on the ground for several miles. Witnesses say that the twister reached widths of almost half a mile wide as it plowed through the area.

When the tornado hit the town of Sneed, it wiped out most standing structures, killing 23 people and injuring many more in the area. People abandoned the town following the damage caused by the twister. Today, empty lots mark where buildings once stood, and a few storm shelter entrances dot the landscape.

All told, the tornado killed 43 people throughout the state. However, much is left unknown about the twister’s strength. Officials surmised the twister’s power from the devastation it caused, but it was impossible to measure most other facets of the storm without modern technologies.  

Animals Impacted by the Most Powerful Tornado in Arkansas

Jackson County, Arkansas was cleared out for agricultural purposes when the area was settled. As a result, many of the animals in the area impacted by the tornado were related to that industry. Thus, some of the impacted animals in this part of Arkansas were probably:

However, many other animals in Arkansas were probably also impacted by these storms including deer, squirrels, and various snakes.  

What Was the Largest Tornado Outbreak in Arkansas?

Arkansas is frequently hit by tornadoes. On average, 37 tornadoes hit this state every year. Every once in a while, though, an outbreak occurs and increases the number of twisters that strike the area. While the most powerful tornado to ever whip through Arkansas was almost a century ago, the largest tornado outbreak struck somewhat recently.

The largest tornado outbreak to hit Arkansas was between January 21 and January 22, 1999, a period of two days during which 56 tornadoes touched down throughout the state. The tornadoes killed 8 people and left a swath of devastation that cut across the state.

Fortunately, many of the tornadoes were weak. However, 8 of them were rated F3s, and one was an F4. Although the tornadoes were deadly, storm notifications and evacuations to safe places probably saved many lives.

The Deadliest Twister to Hit Arkansas

The deadliest tornado to hit Arkansas is a tie between the 1949 Warren Tornado and the 1898 Fort Smith Tornado during which 55 people were killed. Scientists believe that both tornadoes were rated F4 when they struck the respective areas.

What Was the Most Powerful Tornado to Ever Whip Through the United States?

A dark day, near Oklahoma the El Reno tornado of 2013 and related storms took a terrible toll. We avoided the brunt of this storm but even at this long range the power of the storm was palpable.

The 2013 El Reno Tornado almost struck interstates packed with traffic.

©Cammie Czuchnicki/

Having looked at the most powerful tornado to ever whip through Arkansas, it’s only fair to wonder how it measures up against the strongest tornadoes seen in the United States. One of the most powerful tornadoes ever recorded with Doppler Radar was the 1999 Bridge Creek tornado, a twister that produced windspeeds of about 302 mph!

The 2013 El Reno Tornado produced wind speeds of about 296 mph! Yet, this tornado also reached a width of roughly 2.6 miles! The twister produced some of the highest wind speeds ever recorded on the planet and combined them with a huge vortex. Fortunately, the storm veered away from its projected course of hitting the Oklahoma City metro area, reducing the number of casualties.

The most powerful tornado to ever whip through Arkansas was among the strongest to strike the country. The Sneed Tornado wiped out an entire town and left it desolate to this day. Fortunately, new technologies are helping identify these storms before they start, giving people more time to get to cover. Hundreds of lives are saved every year by these measures, and that’s amazing when one considers that tornadoes are becoming increasingly prevalent.  

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

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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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