Tornado History

*Please note that the former URL for this page:  is no longer valid and will not be updated.

 Compilations of tornado activity in the 58-county area served by the Paducah NWS office in PDF format.  For information prior to 1996 contact our office.

Tornado Events from 1996-2001  (PDF; all tornadoes)
Tornado Events from 2002-2006 (PDF; all tornadoes)
Tornado Events from 2007-2009 (PDF; all tornadoes)

Notable Tornadoes

**Updated April, 2010**

 Fortunately, most tornadoes are ranked as weak tornadoes. Nationally, about 68 percent of all tornadoes are classified as F0 or F1. Only about 1 in 100 tornadoes is classified as F4 or F5, however this 1 percent accounts for 26 percent of tornado deaths. Click here for a listing of F4 and F5 tornadoes from 1950 to 2009. View a listing of F-3 or stronger tornadoes from 1996 through November, 2006 (PDF Format).

In the Paducah County Warning Area, which includes 58 counties in the Mid Mississippi and Lower Ohio Valleys, the period from 1990 to 2001 was relatively quiet. A very active period of tornadoes began in 2002. Fatal tornado outbreaks occurred in late April of 2002, early May of 2003, November of 2005, early March of 2006, and February of 2008. The past couple of years (March '08-March '10) have seen a relative lull in violent and/or deadly tornado activity.

  • 2007-2008: Strong fall and winter tornadoes...

A tornado outbreak occurred in October of 2007, mainly in western Kentucky. The city of Owensboro was struck by the second EF-3 tornado since 2000. In January and February of 2008, tornadoes again made headlines. A tornado rated EF-2 killed two occupants of a mobile home in Posey County, Indiana in late January. The following month, a tornado rated EF-3 struck Muhlenberg County, KY and killed three persons. 

  • 2005-2006: Violent fall tornadoes ... 

A long-track F3 tornado killed over 20 people in the Evansville, IN area on November 6, 2005. Two more deadly tornadoes occurred later that month, each of which killed one person. They were in Marshall County (KY) on Nov. 15 and Ripley County (MO) on November 27. A killer tornado in Perry County, Missouri on March 11, 2006 took the lives of two persons as they tried to escape in their vehicle. All the 2005-06 killer tornadoes were rated F2 or F3.

The strongest September tornadoes on record in the Paducah County Warning Area occurred on September 22, 2006. One F4 tornado struck Crosstown in Perry County, Missouri and continued through Jackson County, Illinois as an F2. In Massac County, Illinois, an F3 occurred on the same date.

  • 2002-2003: Violent spring tornadoes ...

On May 6, 2003, a tornado rated F4 intensity killed two persons in Pulaski and Massac Counties in Illinois.

Tornado fatalities in the Paducah County Warning Area occurred in late April of 2002, when 3 persons were killed in separate tornadoes. A tornado rated F4 intensity struck just northwest of Poplar Bluff, Missouri on April 24, 2002.

  • 1999-2000: Winter tornadoes ...

On January 3, 2000, F3 tornadoes struck Owensboro, Kentucky and Crittenden County, Kentucky. These tornadoes demonstrate just how vulnerable our region is during the winter. These two tornadoes caused about 70 million dollars in damage, along with a couple dozen injuries. January of 1999 was another active winter month, with tornadoes on the 21st and destructive severe thunderstorms on the 17th.

  • 1925-1990 ...

A major tornado outbreak on June 2, 1990 produced F4 tornadoes over southwest Indiana and the Wabash Valley of southeast Illinois. An F4 tornado that tracked through parts of Gibson and Pike Counties in Indiana killed 6 persons. Another F4 tornado with a much longer track began over Hamilton County, IL and ended over Lawrence County, IN, killing 1. The Wabash River Valley was not a part of the Paducah office's County Warning Area until the mid 1990's.

On May 29, 1982, ten lives were lost in an F4 tornado that tore through the Marion-Carbondale area of southern Illinois. 

One of the most infamous tornadoes in U.S. history occurred in northern parts of the Paducah Warning Area. The Great Tri-state Tornado of March 18, 1925 was perhaps the deadliest and longest-lived in American history. This F5 tornado tracked an estimated 219 miles, killing 695 persons in its path. The tornado began near Ellington, Missouri and finally dissipated near Petersburg, Indiana. Jackson and Franklin Counties in southern Illinois suffered some of the most concentrated damage. Along a path from Gorham to West Frankfort, IL, 541 people were killed and 1423 seriously injured in just 40 minutes.

Despite the fact there was a continuous damage track, it is possible the Tri-state Tornado could have been a series of tornadoes instead of one single tornado, but we may never know for sure.

 Tornadoes are classified according to the strength of their wind speeds. Since tornadoes very seldom pass over wind equipment, their wind speeds are estimated by examining damage patterns. The most commonly used scale of tornado intensity was devised by Theodore Fujita. The Fujita scale was revised to the EF (Enhanced Fujita) scale in 2007. The following is the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado intensity:  


Enhanced Fujita rating Wind speeds Damage pattern
EF0 (Gale tornado) 65 to 85 MPH Light damage. Breaks branches off trees. Some damage to chimneys.
EF1 (Moderate tornado) 86 to 110 MPH Moderate damage. Peels surface off roofs. Attached garages may be destroyed. Mobile homes may be overturned.
EF2 (Significant tornado) 111 to 135 MPH Considerable damage. Roofs torn off frame houses. Mobile homes demolished.
EF3 (Severe tornado) 136 to 165 MPH Severe damage. Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed houses. Heavy cars lifted off ground and thrown.
EF4 (Devastating tornado) 166 to 200 MPH Devastating damage. Well-constructed houses levelled. Structures with weak foundations blown off some distance.
EF5 (Incredible tornado) 200+ MPH Incredible damage. Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate. Trees debarked.

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