List of tornadoes striking downtown areas

List of tornadoes striking downtown areas

This article is a list of tornadoes that have impacted the central business district (downtown) of a large city.

It is a common - and definitely false - myth that tornadoes do not strike downtown areas. The odds are much lower due to the small areas covered, but paths can go anywhere - including over downtown areas. St. Louis, Missouri has taken a direct hit four times in less than a centurycite web |last=Edwards |first=Roger |authorlink=Roger Edwards |coauthors=J. Schaefer |title=Downtown Tornadoes |publisher=Storm Prediction Center |url= ] and Windsor, Ontario, Canada was also struck three times in 50 years. Many of the tornadoes listed were extremely destructive or caused numerous casualties, and the occurrence of a catastrophic event somewhere is inevitablecite journal |last=Wurman |first=Joshua |authorlink=Joshua Wurman | coauthors=C. Alexander, P. Robinson, and Y. Richardson |title=Low-Level Winds in Tornadoes and Potential Catastrophic Tornado Impacts in Urban Areas |journal=Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society |volume=88 |issue=1 |pages=31–46 |publisher=American Meteorological Society |month=January | year=2007 |url= |doi=10.1175/BAMS-88-1-31 ]

It should also be noted that this list is not exhaustive (listing every single tornado that has struck a downtown area or central business district of any city), as it may never be known if a tornado struck a downtown area, or if it was just a microburst (powerful downward gust of wind, which cause much of their damage from straight-line winds), particularly for older events or from areas with limited information. Downbursts often accompany intense tornadoes, extending damage across a wider area than the tornado path. When a tornado strikes a city, it is occasionally very difficult to determine whether it was a tornadic event at all or if the affected area was indeed the "downtown" or "central business district", as opposed to other heavily urbanized/built-up parts of the city or suburbs. It is sometimes also difficult to determine tornadoes that strike urban cores before 1950, when tornado records (particularly in the US) started to be consistently logged with detail. Before this, lack of details on information from the events, as well as that most cities were far smaller in area and population complicates the record.

For the list of cities that are not listed here for certain reasons, see below.

North America


Africa has no default tornado strength measurement system, so the storms here will be listed using the Fujita Scale.


Most of Asia has no default tornado strength measurement system (though Japan has been known to use the Fujita Scale in the past), so the storms here will be listed using the Fujita Scale. [ [ Japanese Tornadoes: Not As Uncommon As Believed] ]

Notable absences

The 1985 Barrie Tornado that struck Barrie, Ontario would be listed here, had it struck today. It is not listed, however, since the town's population was under 50,000 at the time (May 31, 1985). Similarly, the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak that spawned the deadly F5 tornado which struck Moore, Midwest City, and Oklahoma City is not listed, since those cities had under 50,000 in population as well, and did not reach the downtown core of Oklahoma City. But today, Moore and Midwest City have well over 50,000 people.

Similarly, the downtown areas of two then-small towns (now large cities) were struck during the 1884 Enigma outbreak: Concord, NC and Cary, NC. Downtown Concord was struck a second time by a tornado in May 1936. [New York Times, New York. February 21, 1884] , [Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana. February 22 1884] , [Finley, John P. Tornadoes: What They Are and How To Observe Them; With Practical Suggestions For The Protection of Life and Property, pages 98-103. The Insurance Monitor, New York, NY, 1887]

The 1987 Edmonton Tornado is likewise not listed because it struck industrial parks, trailer parks, and suburban areas, and was far away from Edmonton's downtown core, although the Edmonton area has roughly 1.1 million people. The "Oak Lawn tornado" of April 21, 1967 which killed 33 people, mostly those in rush hour traffic at a busy intersection, and moved across southern Chicago onto Lake Michigan is not included because it missed the downtown core. Most recently, the 2008 Memphis tornado on February 5, 2008 also missed the downtown area (by a significant distance).

Another notable absence is the July 7, 1915 storm that struck Cincinnati, Ohio, killing 38 people. This was determined to be most likely a windstorm causing downbursts or even a series of microbursts (with much of the damage coming from the straight-line winds), and not a tornado. [ [ 1915: Cincinnati's Deadliest Winds ] ]

European tornadoes that are listed before 1950 are for cities that had at least 50,000 people in them at the time. Tornadoes dating back to 1054 are confirmed, due to extensive record-keeping for many weather events and other until-then unexplained weather occurrences.

See also

* List of tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
** List of European tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
** List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
*** List of Canadian tornadoes
* List of F5 and EF5 tornadoes
* Tornado myths


External links

* [ Downtown Tornadoes] (Storm Prediction Center)
* [ Major cities not immune from twisters] (USA Today)
* []
* []

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