The Easter tornado outbreak that faced added COVID-19 complications

On this day in weather history, a tornado outbreak ravaged the Southeastern United States.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


Between Sunday, Apr. 12, and Monday, Apr. 13, 2020, a widespread tornado outbreak impacted the Southeastern United States. Not only was it Easter Sunday and Monday, but it was also during the earlier days of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the 37-hour and 24-minute outbreak, there were 140 confirmed tornadoes across 10 states.

1920px-April 12–13, 2020 tornado outbreak warnings and reports

Map plotting locations of tornado touchdowns and tornado warning polygons across the Southeastern United States. Courtesy of TheAustinMan/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

The extreme weather started brewing a few weeks before the outbreak. Throughout the Southeast U.S., a high-pressure system contributed to already abnormally warm temperatures.

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During the end of March and the beginning of April, the calm weather associated with the high-pressure system started to quickly warm the Gulf of Mexico water. The water reached its highest temperature in modern-recording keeping, over 2 °C more than the 1971 – 2010 average.

This increased moisture levels in the air, which with the environmental instability, led to higher risks of tornado activity.

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Throughout the outbreak, there were a total of three EF4 tornadoes. The strongest tornado occurred in Mississippi, with winds as fast as 310 km/h.

So many areas were destroyed by this outbreak. This is the aftermath of an EF3 tornado in Monroe, Louisiana.


Courtesy of Wikipedia

This is the damage caused by an EF4 tornado in Nixville, South Carolina.

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Courtesy of Wikipedia

And here's a BorgWarner factory in Seneca, South Carolina, after it was hit by an EF3 tornado.


Courtesy of Wikipedia

A total of 38 people across seven states died from this outbreak. Five governors declared a state of emergency to help with recovery efforts, but aid was complicated due to the social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about the 2020 Easter tornado outbreak, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail: Courtesy of NOAA