March 1952 Southern United States tornado outbreak

March 1952 Southern United States tornado outbreak
Date of tornado outbreak: March 21–22, 1952
Duration1: ~24 hours
Maximum rated tornado2: F4 tornado
Tornadoes caused: 31
Damages: Unknown
Fatalities: 209
Areas affected: Southern United States, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Alabama

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita Scale

The March 1952 Southern United States tornado outbreak was the ninth deadliest tornado outbreak in the history of the United States.[1][2] Affecting the American South, it produced 209 deaths, fifty of which were related to a single tornado in Arkansas. The outbreak produced eleven violent F4 tornadoes across the Southern United States, which is the fourth largest number of F4–F5 events produced by a single outbreak.[2][3] Only the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, the April 3, 1974, Super Outbreak, and the April 25-28, 2011 tornado outbreak surpassed this number. The severe weather event resulted in the fourth largest number of tornado fatalities within a 24-hour period since 1950.[4][2] The weather system associated with the outbreak also produced several inches of snow across the central and northern Great Plains and the upper Midwest. Blizzard conditions affected Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.[5]


Meteorological synopsis

On March 21, 1952, a significant surface low progressed across Oklahoma and Arkansas. Southerly winds transported dewpoints in excess of 64°F across portions of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Strong upper level wind speeds moved eastward and intersected the warm, moist air mass.[6] The first tornado developed in southwestern Arkansas and struck the town of Dierks during the early afternoon. The path width reached 800 yd (732 m), and seven fatalities occurred.[7] The next F4 tornado, spawned by the same supercell, affected White County and passed through the town of Judsonia.[5][7] Killing fifty people, the tornado became the fourth deadliest tornado recorded in the U.S. state of Arkansas.[8] Nine additional F4 tornadoes developed within the next 22 hours and caused 123 deaths, which comprised 54.6% of the outbreak's fatalities. 90% of the outbreak's 31 confirmed tornadoes attained strong (F2–F3) or violent (F4–F5) intensity. This value is the highest percentage recorded for an outbreak with at least 30 confirmed and documented tornadoes. However, it can be presumed that many weaker tornadoes occurred but were not documented. [2]

Simultaneously, a significant blizzard affected the Great Plains. In Kansas, 15 inches of snow were recorded. On March 22, Charles City, Iowa, documented 11.6 inches, which was the town's greatest 24-hour snowfall record at the time. Minnesota reported 17 inches, while Bergland, Michigan, reported two feet (0.61 m) of snowfall. Heavy snow and strong winds disrupted highways and road traffic. Flash floods also affected Sumner and Clay counties, Tennessee.[5]

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
Alabama 4 Morgan 4
Arkansas 112 Cross 4
Howard 7
Lonoke 11
Mississippi 2
Poinsett 3
Prairie 6
White 50
Woodruff 29
Missouri 17 Pemiscot 17
Mississippi 9 Marshall 9
Tennessee 67 Carroll 1
Chester 23
Dyer 16
Fayette 7
Gibson 2
Hardeman 4
Henderson 11
Hickman 3
Totals 209
All deaths were tornado-related

Tornado table

31 0 1 6 11 11 0

Confirmed tornadoes

March 21

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F4 Dierks area Howard 2040 13 miles
(20.8 km)
7 deaths were documented. The funnel struck the northwestern portion of Dierks. Twenty-two homes were destroyed by the F4 tornado. The majority of these structures were frail.[7]
F3 SW of Ferndale Saline 2200 17.7 miles
(28.3 km)
The tornado affected Paron. A church, home, and barns were destroyed. Homes also lost roofs.[7]
F4 SE of Searcy to W of Russell White 2250 14.6 miles
(23.4 km)
50 fatalities occurred, of which thirty were confirmed in Judsonia. The tornado passed through the business district of Judsonia. In the town, 385 homes were destroyed and 560 exhibited damage. The tornado killed ten people in the eastern portions of Bald Knob, and nine fatalities were reported in rural locales. A person also died near Russell.[7]
F2 S of Mayflower Faulkner 2300 Unknown Small homes were demolished west of the Mayflower area. Three homes were damaged and three were destroyed near Saltillo.[7]
F4 Wattensaw area Lonoke 2300 7.6 miles
(12.2 km)
2 deaths were reported near Wattensaw.[9]
F3 SW of England to W of Tollville Lonoke 2300 16.2 miles
(25.9 km)
9 fatalities occurred in the town of England. Forty homes were destroyed, of which most were poorly constructed.[9]
F2 Hickory Plains to NE of Jasmine Prairie 2320 13.3 miles
(21.3 km)
5 fatalities were recorded, of which two occurred at Hickory Plains.[9]
F? NW of Tollville Prairie 2320 Unknown 1 death was reported. One source cites two fatalities.[9] This tornado occurred south of Hazen.[9] Fifteen homes were destroyed and twenty-seven received damage.[5]
F3 Georgetown to McCrory Woodruff 2330 17.6 miles
(28.2 km)
The village of Georgetown was nearly completely destroyed.[5]
F4 Cotton Plant to Hillemann Woodruff 2330 13.1 miles
(21 km)
29 fatalities occurred at Cotton Plant. The northwestern portion of the town was devastated[9] and received F4 damage. Portions of Hillemann also sustained extensive damage.[5] The funnel likely dissipated after striking Hillemann.[9]
F3 SE of Blackville to Lake City area[9] Jackson, Poinsett, Craighead 2340 28.5 miles
(45.6 km)
Seven homes were destroyed and eight received damage in Jackson County.[5] The tornado produced a skipping damage swath.[9]
F4 Hickory Ridge area Cross 0000 Unknown 4 deaths were verified in the town of Hickory Ridge. Of the town's homes, thirty were destroyed and eighty-six were afflicted with damage.[9]
F3 Fisher area to Trumann Poinsett, Mississippi 0045 Unknown 3 deaths are officially listed. One possible fatality occurred at Fisher. In Fisher, twenty-one homes were destroyed or incurred damage. Additionally, there were two deaths north of Harrisburg. In Trumann, twenty-four buildings were damaged or destroyed. The third death also occurred at Trumann.[9]
F3 S of Marked Tree to Lepanto area Poinsett 0045 9.4 miles
(15 km)
1 death occurred. The tornado originated south of Marked Tree and ended near Lepanto. A small home was destroyed and twenty-two homes were damaged.[9]
F3 Trumann to Blytheville Mississippi 0100 39.7 miles
(63.5 km)
1 fatality occurred near Milligan Ridge. This tornado likely dissipated in the Blytheville area and redeveloped into a new tornado.[9]
F4 S of Lapata Dyer 0000 4.7 miles
(7.5 km)
2 deaths were confirmed. Twelve homes were demolished near Bonicord, while five were destroyed near RoEllen.[9]
F3 SE of Dyersburg Dyer 0230 18.1 miles
(29 km)
10 deaths are officially listed, although one source does not include the tenth death. The damage path extended through the eastern section of Dyersburg.[9]
F4 S of Owl Hoot[9] Dyer 0230 2 miles
(3.2 km)
4 deaths occurred. One resource states that at least eight deaths were attributable to the tornado. This event may have represented a continuation of the path of the Cooter, Missouri, F4 tornado.[9]
F2 Medina area Gibson 0445 Unknown
F3 SE of Milan[9] Carroll 0450 Unknown This tornado passed through the Milan Arsenal, damaging thirty buildings and fifty-nine vehicles. Barracks were also damaged. Damage estimates reached $500,000 (1952 USD).[9]
F2 Leach area Carroll 0500 Unknown 1 death occurred. Twelve homes were destroyed south of Huntingdon.[9]
F1 Carthage area Smith 0515[9] 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
A large building was unroofed and destroyed in the downtown region of Carthage. According to one publication, the tornado attained F2 intensity.[9]
F3 Bruceton area Carroll 0517 5.1 miles
(8.2 km)
The business district of Bruceton was destroyed,[5] and three homes were demolished.[9]
F4 SW of Bolivar to Darden area Hardeman, Chester, Henderson 0530 46.8 miles
(74.9 km)
38 deaths occurred. This tornado descended in Hardeman County. It touched down southwest of Bolivar and moved northeast to the Darden area. Four fatalities occurred in the northern section of Bolivar, where fourteen homes were demolished. In Henderson, 120 homes were destroyed and 260 received damage in the northern half of the town. Twenty-three people died in the town. The remaining eleven fatalities were reported from north of Jacks Creek to the vicinity of Darden.[9]
F2 Buffalo area Humphreys 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
0555 Three farm houses were unroofed and barns were demolished. The tornado affected the Squeeze Bottom area,[9] which was situated near Buffalo.
F4 E of Holland Pemiscot 0200 6.5 miles
(10.4 km)
17 fatalities were attributed to the tornado. Farms and tenant homes were devastated in the vicinity of Cooter. One source indicates that this tornado traversed the Mississippi River and entered Tennessee, causing eight additional fatalities in the next state.[9] The parent supercell thunderstorm was accompanied by hail. Seventy homes were destroyed and 130 received damage.[5]
F? Madison area[5] Madison 0230 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
A brief tornado was observed. One person was injured.[5]
F4 Byhalia area to SE of Pattersonville, TN Marshall, MS; Fayette, TN 0400 29.6 miles
(47.4 km)
Officially, the tornado caused 16 deaths. One publication lists seventeen fatalities. Twenty-two homes were destroyed in Mississippi, while sixteen were destroyed in Tennessee. The majority of the deaths were documented in Mississippi. The tornado passed northwest of Moscow, Tennessee.[9] It was formerly classified at F5 intensity, but an extensive study did not ascertain F5 damage. A concrete block building was destroyed, but the integrity of the construction was unknown. The Storm Prediction Center officially reduced the intensity to F4 status.[10]
Sources: NCDC Storm Events Database, SPC Storm Data, Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: Chronology and Analysis of Events by Thomas P. Grazulis

March 22

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F3 S of Hodgenville Larue 0605 2.7 miles
(4.3 km)
Nine cottage buildings and the county fairgrounds were destroyed. Twelve homes were unroofed, and approximately forty received minor damage.[9]
F2 Spot area Hickman 0620 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
3 deaths occurred. Seven homes were destroyed and two were damaged. Eleven families were impacted.[5]
F4 W of Falkville to S of Huntsville Morgan 2100 21.6 miles
(34.6 km)
4 deaths were recorded. The tornado developed near Massey and moved northeast, traveling west of Falkville. Thirty-five homes were destroyed, and some structures received F4 destruction. The funnel also passed through the Redstone Arsenal.[9]
Sources: NCDC Storm Events Database, SPC Storm Data, Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: Chronology and Analysis of Events by Thomas P. Grazulis

See also


  • Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 


  1. ^ Grazulis, p. 38
  2. ^ a b c d National Climatic Data Center. "NCDC Storm Events Database". Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  3. ^ Grazulis, p. 37
  4. ^ Evans, Jeffry S. (2008). "Forecasting the Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak at the SPC". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l U.S. Department of Commerce (1952). Climatological Data: National Summary (March 1952). U.S. Weather Bureau.
  6. ^ Finch, Jonathan D. "Historical Tornado Cases for North America: 1950-1959". Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Grazulis, p. 962
  8. ^ The Tornado Project. "The United States' Worst Tornadoes". Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Grazulis, p. 963
  10. ^ Gordon, John D. et al (2000). "The Forgotten F5: The Lawrence County Supercell During the Middle Tennessee Tornado Outbreak of April 16, 1998". National Weather Service. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 

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