Tupelo-Gainesville Outbreak

From Academic Kids

The Tupelo-Gainesville Outbreak was the outbreak of tornadoes that included the 4th and 5th deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history. Seventeen tornadoes broke out in the deep south in the early evening hours of April 5, 1936, and ended in the late morning hours of April 6, 1936. 436 deaths were credited to the two tornadoes. The supercell thunderstorms formed out of the heat of the 90F (32C) day and the approaching storm system.

The Tupelo Tornado

The fourth deadliest tornado in United States history slammed into Tupelo, Mississippi at around 8:30 P.M. It was an F5 on the Fujita Scale. The tornado moved through the residential areas of Tupelo and destroyed many homes. Unlike the Gainesville event that would occur the next morning, the tornado missed the downtown business district. The tornado obliterated many well-constructed homes and swept away the poorly-constructed ones, killing many entire families. When the death toll of 216 was set, over 100 people had been hospitalized in three states. The final death toll was set at 233 (not necessarily including African-American deaths, who were frequently excluded from death tolls until the 1950s).

On a side note, it is believed that Elvis Presley (at that time, one year old) and his mother survived the Tupelo tornado.

The Gainesville Tornado

The morning after the Tupelo tornado, the storm system moved through Alabama overnight, and finally reached Gainesville, Georgia at around 8:30 A.M. This early morning tornado was a double tornado event. One tornado moved in from the Atlanta highway, while the other moved in from the Dawsonville highway. The two merged on Grove Street, and destroyed everything in sight, causing wreckage pileups of up to 10 feet in some places. The worst tornado-caused death toll in a single building in U.S. history was at the Cooper Pants Factory. The multiple story building, filled with young workers, collapsed and caught fire, killing 70 people. At the Pacolet Mall, 550 workers averted a tragedy by moving to the northeast side of the building. Many people sought refuge in Newnan's department store; however, it collapsed, killing 20 people.

The final death toll couldn't be calculated because many of the buildings that were hit collapsed and caught fire. A 203 person death toll was posted, with 40 missing. Letters from Gainesville, Georgia were blown 67 miles away to Anderson, South Carolina.

The Gainesville tornado was an F4 on the Fujita Scale and was the fifth deadliest tornado in U.S. history. It caused $13 million in damage.


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