What's The Widest Tornado Ever?

I'm pretty sure it was the Hallam tornado on May 22, 2004. It was a beast. It looked like a wall of dirt and debris. You couldn't see where it ended. I believe the survey showed it as a 2.5 mile wide F4. There was one in TN or some place out East that was pretty big too.
 
The Hallam, Ne. F4 on 5/22/04 has got it on this one. 2 1/2 mi. wide @ it's widest point going from Gage Co. into SW Lancaster Co. (and ultimately Hallam). Path length was about 50 miles, if memory serves me correct.
 
The widest tornado ever occurrs tommorow 6/9/06 in NE Nebraska with windspeeds exceeding 325 mph yeah go ahead laugh I'm not joking!!
No, but really I do believe Michael is right the Hallam tornado is the widest on record, however it was not the strongest although I do not believe there were any wind speeds recorded by doppler on that storm I could be wrong though, many in these woods still argue that the tornado deserved an F-5 rating!
 
Ahh, one of my favorite topics returns!

Some links:
Damage Map
WFO Omaha Event Description

FYI, the previous tornado width record was (arguably) held by the Gruver, TX tornado of June 9, 1971. It was listed at a whopping 2 miles in diameter. Another large tornado that was a contender for this distinction was the Woodward, OK tornado of April 9, 1947. When the tornado struck Woodward, it was 1.8 miles wide.

Gabe
 
The survey for the Hallam tornado did show that it had a path length of something like 50 miles, but I will swear up and down until the day I die that there were three seperate tornadoes that day. If I remember correctly, the survey showed three tornadoes, but the first one was incredibly weak(I don't count that one, I think it was a spin up) and they did count the satellite tornado that happened later in the day(it was the strongest satellite tornado I have ever seen). I have video of the first one touching down, but not of it lifting up. I have video of a second one right after it touched down (so I can't prove definitevly that it was a new tornado) and I have video of a third one that was a satellite tornado on the South side of the main tornado. That day was such a blur that I can't really remember much more than what I recall from watching video, but I am pretty damn sure I'm right on this. The cloud base and circulation were so close to the ground that day that I am sure damage surveys would make it look like one long track tornado, but I don't think that was the case.
 
Michael,

That day is a big blur to me as well... Gabe was acting as navigator, and I didn't look at the map for most of the chase, which means that I'm having a little more difficult of a time matching locations with memories. Unfortunately, my GPS log from that day did not save either, so that makes it worse...

I do remember several satellite tornadoes doing the merry-go-round around the large tornado that eventually hit Hallam. There were also a couple of tornadoes that occurred, IIRC, BEFORE the Hallam tornado developed. Actually, I should say that I know of at least one before then -- see my picture HERE of a tornado near (IIRC) Alexandria. The Hallam tornado eventually became so rain-wrapped and dark that I actually thought it had lifted. I remember thinking that one of the satellites was actually THE tornado, unknowingly missing the historically-massive wedge in the pitch-blackness a little farther north.

Following that one, everyone seems to have video of driving through and out of Daykin as the tornado that later goes on to hit Hallam develops. I got a chuckle watching highlight videos from that year, since almost every person who was on that storm seems to have the same piece of footage -- driving out of Daykin, with that water tower passing in front of the tornado on the way east out of town.
 
i thought i heard somewhere that the mulhall tornado on may 3rd 1999 was up there in width, i know the moore one was 3/4 to a mile wide, i thought i heard somewhere that the mulhall one was over 2 miles wrong, please correct me if i am wrong ;)
 
When thinking of "widest tornadoes", for some reason my mind just pulls big historic days out of the hat no matter whether they actually hold the title or not (Jordan, IA, Last Chance, CO) - and I generally tend to forget about May 22nd, 2004.

I guess that technically the May 22nd, 2004 Hallam tornado WAS the widest tornadic circulation ever recorded. That was NOT a storm that one wanted to mess with - especially considering it was, I believe, mostly at or after dark.

The question is - was Hallam one big wedge or was the damage path an amalgamated path of true tornadic winds and micro/downburst/RFD wind damage?

I'm sure there are some studies/papers online that may well answer my questions about Hallam - but I don't know how detailed a damage survey was done. I'm a bit out of touch these days.

KL
 
I recall reading of a two-mile-wide tornado in McColl, North Carolina, during an eastern outbreak some years ago, possibly as far back as the 1980s.
 
According to my extreme weather book they dont say what the widest tornado was but they do name 2 contenders.

From Extreme Weather: Tornado Expert Thomas Gruzulis suggests that the widest tornado to have been measured (by it's tornado path) was probibly the 2.2-mile-wide monster that cut through Pennsylvania's Moshanon State Forest on may 31, 1985. This had a path length of 69 miles and, of course, was not 2 miles wide for it's entire length but only at it's widest. Fortuitously, this extremely violent storm passed through a largly uninhabited portion of what is otherwise a heavy populated state. Another contender for widest-ever tornado is the storm that struck the Red Springs-McColl area of North Carolina on march 28, 1984. This tornado may have been 2.5 miles wide at it's greatest.
 
Woodward, OK, back in April 1947 was also about two miles in width.

As for the question to whether Hallam was just a tornado or a tornado/microburst combination, COD caught the tornado as it hit Hallam. The pics they have are very much the way Jeff described it; too big to tell what it is unless you were there. They are pretty vehement about its width being 2+ miles. Also, keep in mind that the WCM of Omaha/Valley, Brian E. Smith, was a direct understudy of Prof. Fujita at U of Chicago and studied many complex tornado cases with him, such as the Plainfield tornado in 1990.
 
I am pretty sure the damage from the Hallam storm was caused by a huge tornado. The stormgasm guys have the best video I have seen of the tornado growing before it hit Hallam. They were ENE of it if I'm not mistaken and there is fairly good contrast. From my angle to the SE it just looked like a wall. You couldn't see the sides of it due to the lack of contrast with the rain shaft in the background. There is no doubt that it was a massive tornado though.
 
Ahh, one of my favorite topics returns!

Some links:
Damage Map
WFO Omaha Event Description

FYI, the previous tornado width record was (arguably) held by the Gruver, TX tornado of June 9, 1971. It was listed at a whopping 2 miles in diameter. Another large tornado that was a contender for this distinction was the Woodward, OK tornado of April 9, 1947. When the tornado struck Woodward, it was 1.8 miles wide.

Gabe
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Man, looking at that map again, I'm reminded of how glad I am that I didn't chase that day. I was at work, and saw the supercell on radar, and begged my boss to let me take a long break to chase it. He did. My plan was to drive like hell down 77 from Lincoln and try to get south of it before the core. Didn't really think I'd make it, but I was going to try anyway. So I got my laptop and my cellphone and the GPS and everything all set up in a jiff. Then, I went to gas up my crappy '88 Civic, but the flaky fuel relay wouldn't let me restart the car for 15 minutes. By then I decided just to shuck it and go back to work, since the storm was already near 77 and the light was fading.

When you figure that it was a good mile wide when it crossed 77 as an F2, and almost impossible to see, at that, I think my fuel relay did me a favor.
 
Wilberwedgestill2.jpg



Here is my greatly enhanced video still of the massive tornado near the time it hit Wilber. It was very dark and I couldn't see much under the massive storm. It was an amazing storm.

Bill hark
 
I wasn't fortunate enough to be able to get under the meso on this storm, but the Hallam storm provided one of the most amazing updrafts I've ever seen. The photo below was taken to the SW of the main updraft. The LCLs were incredibly low. The updraft was so firm and intense, the updraft appeared to ricochet off of the tropopause in rippling rear mammatus. I have never seen a storm structure like this. Also, the rotation on the updraft was so intense, it caused eddies to form in the anvil.

While I would have loved to have caught the tornado, I was nevertheless very excited to catch this structure. Of course, 2004 was an amazing year for tornadoes, so it was a bag of plenty.

I'll never forget the next day I was driving down a highway about 30 miles east of Hallum and I saw a teddy bear and childrens clothes caught on barbed wire by the side of the road. I think that was the first time I've ever gotten chills and perspective on the power of some storms we chase...
 
I know that the Hallam, NE tornado is most likely one of the widest recorded tornadoes in history, but I wanted to bring up the notion of the famous Tri-State tornado. Does anyone happen to know how wide the storm was or have any links that might provide some information into this. I remember seeing specials about the Tri-State twister where old locals said it looked like a giant black wall of dust. I don't know if it was all that wide, but I wanted to toss it out there because I was interested if any of you would know what the estimated width of the storm was.
 
I know that the Hallam, NE tornado is most likely one of the widest recorded tornadoes in history, but I wanted to bring up the notion of the famous Tri-State tornado. Does anyone happen to know how wide the storm was or have any links that might provide some information into this. I remember seeing specials about the Tri-State twister where old locals said it looked like a giant black wall of dust. I don't know if it was all that wide, but I wanted to toss it out there because I was interested if any of you would know what the estimated width of the storm was.
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I went to Fermilab, where Bob Johns presented on the reevaluation of the Tri-State Tornado. The widest I heard was ~1.25 miles.
 
I was able to see the Hallam tornado as it passed between Wilber and Clatonia, just as it began to widen to unprecidented size, and I can say that it definitely was a tornado. That doesn't mean that some damage didn't occur from other sources. I believe that the downtown Wiber damage was determined to have been caused by strong RFD, if I recall correctly (can someone confirm/deny this one?). It took a long time to even see the wedge, as it eventually came out of the rain bands. Then, it simply looked as if the entire meso sunk to the ground. You literally couldn't make heads or tails of it. My comment on video at the time was something like, if you didn't know it was there, you would have no clue. It really was unlike any storm I've ever seen, and likely will ever see. A frightening night.
 
The Tri-State is a contender for the widest...if you're measuring damage path, because it was a rolling combination of tornado+downburst winds. Long-track wise too, the freakish tornado traveled 219 miles and lasted 3.5 hours. Yikes. Width of tornado-only, you might have to go with Hallam. Nevertheless, the Tri-State must have been a force to reckon with.

Tri-State - from Wikipedia -
"The unusual appearance of the near record fast moving tornado, best described by the witnesses along most of its path as an amorphous rolling fog, killed more normally weather wise farm owners than any other in U.S. history and contributed to the farm owners and people in general not timely sensing the danger. The tornado was accompanied by extreme downburst winds generally throughout the entirity of its course; the tornado and downburst couplet increased the damage width from the tornado width of about an average of 3/4-mile to an area of damage at times three miles wide."


I see a lesson there...that appearances can fool even seasoned individuals who are used to observing tornadoes. That one caught them off guard. You never know what's in the mist.

Europe too dished out a big one in 1902 with a tornado in the Haute-Loire in south central France. That one came in at 1.86 miles wide.
 
The Tri-State Tornado was thought to be moving at 73 MPH! I thought that was insane. My weather books did say it was very wide but they did not include it for thier contenders for the widest tornado. None the less that tornado is very inpressive and could possible have been stronger than the Moore Oklahoma tornado.

Thanks for the info susan I will check online mabey and see what I can find on the tornado.
 
I believe that the downtown Wiber damage was determined to have been caused by strong RFD, if I recall correctly (can someone confirm/deny this one?).
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I think the damage in Wilber was caused by the north edge of the tornado, actually. If you look at the
damage path map, you'll see that the tornado rapidly expanded in size near Wilber. This particular segment of the tornado was captured by Jim Bishop and Simon Brewer. They were caught in a dangerous position when the tornado quickly widened to nearly twice its original size. Fortunately, they were able to ride out the tornado in a building in downtown Wilber.

Personally, I was probably 6 or 7 miles southwest of Wilber looking to the north when I first noticed that the tornado cyclone was rapidly expanding. To give you an idea of how large it was, it was easily twice the size of the tornado cyclone near Western (where the tornado first became a wedge). In other words, unbelievably large (probably 6 or 7 miles across). At the time, I didn't realize that a very large tornado was on the ground in the darkness under the tornado cyclone. Even still, we must have seen 4 or 5 satellite tornadoes touch down on the south side of the tornado cyclone which, we thought (erroneously), were intermittent touchdowns of the main tornado. Truly an amazing event.

Gabe
 
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While I was not a witness to the Hallam NE monster...this tornado shown above is the biggest one to date that I have seen. This F4 tornado was on April 8, 1999 near Bridgewater IA...the damage path was over 1 mile wide at times, and this was when it had maxed out in size while moving northeast at 50-55mph. It luckily remained over pretty much open farmland before dissipating near I-80.
 
At the time, I didn't realize that a very large tornado was on the ground in the darkness under the tornado cyclone. Even still, we must have seen 4 or 5 satellite tornadoes touch down on the south side of the tornado cyclone which, we thought (erroneously), were intermittent touchdowns of the main tornado. Truly an amazing event.

Gabe
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I was the exact same way, Gabe. I was concentrating on the very back edge, and there were indeed numerous funnels recorded. Still, I kept thiking there's gotta be more to this monster that I wasn't seeing. Sure enough...... And thanks for providing those links.

And thanks for posting Stertz.....I know it's probably not in the running for largest, but that Carbon/Bridgewater Tornado on 4.8.99 was my first real chasing "catch", and I think you & Jeff passed me going ...let's just say quickly.... heading towards, or out of Carbon (memory's fuzzy). The video you guys had of that monster was incredible! I ended up gettting a flat so I lost it shortly thereafter. I forgot how fast it was moving, too.

Great thread, gang.
 
I would be certainly quick to solidly agree that the Tri-State tornado was probably THE meanest tornado ever, and possibly the widest at some point. It was from all accounts a violent hornet's nest rolling along the ground and wiping out anything in it's 219 mile path at 70+ mph. I am sure this thing would have been unchaseable given the speed, massive debris field/path, and poor/sparce road network at the time. I have always been seriously fascinated by this vicious tornado and how things could just focus so strongly to allow the nearly steady state of a wide, fast, and deadly violent tornado. The debate still goes on as if this was a single tornado or a family of violent tornadoes. The continuous nature of horrific damage probably is more indicative of a cyclic family of tornadoes, especially since this violent tornado was born and lived in the occlusion zone of a very powerful deepening surface low. I can only imagine the gate to gate couplet on that one...had any radar data been available at that time !!

Yeah that Iowa F4 definitely required all the throttle you could possibly have, and we were still falling behind it !! JB - It was a good thing the lcl's were decently high enough that we could see the massive tornado as it zipped across the empty cornfields. You did not have any real margin for error. I can still remember that chase vividly; a tremendous chase & then waking up the next morning hearing about the Blue Ash-Montgomery OH F4 tornado...which oddly enough struck just 1/4 mile from my in laws. Fortunately they escaped the damage.
 
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