10 years since the deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history

19 tornadoes were reported in Virginia during the April 25-28 outbreak
A look back at one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.
Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 11:48 AM EDT
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2011 was an incredible year for active weather in Virginia, especially tornadoes. April 2011 brought several tornadoes early in the month, including Pulaski and Draper. Few had any idea the second half of the month would be even more devastating.

The “2011 Super Outbreak” would be known as the largest, costliest and deadliest outbreak in U.S. history. A total of 360 tornadoes were confirmed over 21 states during the multi-day event, with almost as many fatalities. The worst of the outbreak unfolded April 27th and lasted into April 28th. April 27′s 316 fatalities were the most tornado-related deaths in the United States in a single day since the “Tri-State” outbreak on March 18, 1925.

Several tornadoes touched down in the WDBJ7 viewing area, including Washington and Halifax counties. Several mountain tornadoes also occurred to our north in the Shenandoah Valley and in West Virginia.

In addition, more than a dozen tornadoes touched down in Central and Northern Virginia. WDBJ7 storm chaser Chris White was following the storms in the Orange county and Spottsylvania area of Virginia. [Read his chase analysis from that day]


An EF-2 tornado touched down in Halifax county near Nathalie which killed a women riding the storm out in a mobile home. Hundreds of structures were damaged along with dozens of injuries. The EF-2 tornado was 350 yards wide and produced winds of more than 125 mph along parts of the 18 mile path.


The most notable tornado in Virginia was an EF-3 that went through southwestern Virginia in Washington and Smyth counties. Three people died and 50 were injured with that tornado which significantly impacted the town of Glade Spring, Virginia.

The tornado managed to cross the Interstate 81 corridor and caused significant damage to a truck stop where hundreds were waiting out the storm.

The EF-3 tornado touched down in Glade Spring, VA in Washington county.
The EF-3 tornado touched down in Glade Spring, VA in Washington county.(WDBJ7)


The largest hail during the entire outbreak was recorded in Saltville, VA in Smythe county, measuring 4.5″ in diameter, or softball size.

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