National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


On April 3, 1974, the beginning of a widespread severe weather outbreak was occurring in Illinois. Within a 24 hour period, a total of 148 tornadoes occurred in 13 states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York), as well as Ontario, Canada. This stood as the largest tornado outbreak on record, until 358 tornadoes occurred over a 4 day period from April 25-28, 2011.

This tornado outbreak killed 319 people across the nation, and was the deadliest tornado outbreak since April 5-6, 1936, when 454 people were killed over the southeast U.S. (primarily in Tupelo, MS, and Gainesville, GA). The 1974 outbreak remains the most violent on record, with 30 tornadoes ranked as F4 or F5 on the original Fujita Scale.

Illinois Tornadoes:

The outbreak began in Illinois early afternoon Central time on April 3. Twelve of the 148 tornadoes in this outbreak touched down in the state. Four of them were of F3 strength; these affected portions of Macon, McLean, Champaign, and Vermilion Counties. The one in Decatur did the most damage.  Two deaths were reported in the state, with 30 injuries.

Map of April 3-4, 1974 tornado outbreak, courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
Map of tornado outbreak, from Storm Prediction Center and National Severe Storms Laboratory
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