The First Alabama Superoutbreak March 21, 1932

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 2:00 PM
128AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Bill Murray, WeatherBrains, Birmingham, AL

The March 21, 1932 tornado outbreak has long stood as the deadliest in Alabama's history. The poorly documented 1932 outbreak killed over 300 people. By April 3, 1974, significant strides had been made in forecasting and the Superoutbreak exacted a much lower toll in terms of fatalities in the state.

Even as old timers across Central Alabama continued to view the 1932 outbreak as their benchmark for severe weather, most people in the weather enterprise believed that modern weather forecasting and severe weather warnings would prevent similarly shocking death tolls.

As the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak unfolded across the State of Alabama, it became apparent that the disaster rivaled the scope of the infamous April 3, 1974 Superoutbreak. By the following morning, it was clear that the death toll from 2011 event had not only surpassed the 1974 Superoutbreak, but could actually come close to equaling the unthinkable toll from 1932.

This presentation will compare the three outbreaks' meteorological and physical impact on Alabama. Lastly, it will examine an overlooked factor that needs to be considered as we continue to research ways to reduce future death tolls from tornadoes and other types of severe weather.