Top 5 Most Destructive Tornados in History

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To deem a tornado “most destructive” you have to factor in a lot of elements, such as size, duration, location, lives lost, and damage to property. Some twisters may be low in wind speed but more severe than faster tornadoes because of where they hit, their size or the amount of time they stay on the ground. The top five most destructive tornadoes were large, powerful, and—most devastatingly—touched down in highly populated areas.

5 Oklahoma, May 2013

On May 20, 2013, a tornado touched down in the suburbs of Oklahoma City and caused record-breaking damage. The 2013 tornado tore a trail through the region that was 2 miles wide and 17 miles long. Large tracts of Moore, Oklahoma, were leveled by the EF-5—Enhanced Fujita scale—tornado, which devastated the area with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour. This massive tornado stayed on the ground for about 40 minutes, killing 24 people.

4 East Pakistan, April 1969

On April 14, 1969, the East Pakistan city of Dacca, which is now Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, was struck by a powerful tornado that left an estimated 660 people dead and at least 4,000 injured. However, it was only the first to hit the region on that day. A second tornado, which was part of the same storm system, touched down in the Homna Upazila, which is part of the Comilla District in Chittagong. The second tornado killed an additional 223 people.

3 Daulatpur-Salturia, April 1989

Believed to be the deadliest tornado on record, the Daulatpur-Salturia, Bangladesh, twister killed about 1,300 people in a matter of minutes. It hit the Manikganj District on April 26, 1989, and the 1-mile-wide funnel leveled everything in its path. When the dust settled, this tornado injured about 12,000 people and left 80,000 homeless through the towns of Salturia and Manikganj. It completely destroyed every home within a 22-mile area of its path.

2 Madarganj-Mrizapur, May 1996

Bangladesh was hit again in May 1996. An estimated 700 people were killed by a massive tornado that touched down and devastated a path from Madarganj to Mrizapur, a distance of about 62 miles. The tornado destroyed approximately 30,000 homes, wiping out Madarganj and Mrizapur, and destroying several more districts along the way.

1 Tri-State Tornado, March 1925

The Tri-State tornado claimed about 695 lives in March 1925, earning this tornado a place among the most devastating tornadoes in history. Despite its name, this tornado actually caused damage in seven states if you count the smaller tornadoes it produced. The main twister started in Missouri, moved through Illinois and reached the end of its path in Indiana. Smaller twisters from the same storm system touched down in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Kansas. The tri-state tornado struck populated areas such as Murphysboro, Illinois, where it killed 234 people. In De Soto, Illinois, it ripped through a school, killing 33 people, and the town of Gorham, Illinois, was completely demolished. The main twister lasted a terrifying 3 1/2 hours and produced eight more tornadoes, which claimed more than 50 lives in addition to the original death toll. This tornado also injured more than 2,700 people and caused extensive property damage.

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