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'Super outbreaks' of severe tornadoes are very uncommon, says Ball State meteorologist

The April 3-4, 1974 Super Outbreak was the U.S.'s largest and most violent tornado outbreaks.  Nearly 150 tornadoes affected 13 states and Ontario, including 30 F4 or F5 tornadoes.  

 

Twenty-one tornadoes, including 3 rated F5, killed 47 people as they raced across the Hoosier state.  One tornado began near Lafayette and ended north of Ft Wayne, tracking 121 miles and killing 19.  This tornado also destroyed the White County Courthouse in Monticello.

 

“Such ‘super outbreaks’ of severe tornadoes are very uncommon,” Call says. “Researchers continue to seek ways to better predict tornadoes and improve warnings to save lives.

 

“Today, thanks to more accurate computer models, Doppler radar, and greater knowledge of how severe weather and tornadoes form, meteorologists can provide earlier notice and more timely warnings when tornadoes threaten,” he says.  “The April 2011 super outbreak in Alabama and nearby states caused more than twice as many tornadoes as the 1974 outbreak, but the death toll was slightly lower. 

 

Call has been at Ball State since 2007 and teaches classes in physical geography, elementary meteorology, severe local storms, and broadcast meteorology. His research interests center around how society copes with hazardous weather events, especially ice and snow. Call received his bachelor’s degree from Penn State (meteorology) and master’s and doctoral degrees from Syracuse University (geography). He also worked as a broadcast meteorologist for several years prior to arrival at Ball State.

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