March 1952 Southern United States tornado outbreak

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March 1952 Southern United States tornado outbreak
Type Tornado outbreak
Duration March 21–22, 1952
Tornadoes confirmed 34
Max rating1 F4 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak2 ~25 hours
Damage $19.5 million (1952 USD)
Fatalities 209 fatalities, ≥1,212 injuries
Areas affected Central & Southern United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

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, 50 of which were related to a single tornado in Arkansas. The outbreak produced 11 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 1974 Super Outbreak, and the 2011 Super Outbreak surpassed this number. The severe weather event resulted in the fourth-largest number of tornado fatalities within a 24-hour period since 1950.[2][4] 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

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

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]

Confirmed tornadoes

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
2 0 2 6 11 11 0 34

March 21

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F4 W of Center Point to SE of Umpire Howard 2040 13 miles
(20.8 km)
7 deaths – The funnel struck the edge of Dierks, destroying 22 homes, most of which were frail.[7]
F3 SW of Paron to E of Ferndale Saline 2200 17.7 miles
(28.3 km)
The tornado was reportedly produced by the same storm that hit Dierks.[5] Near Paron, a church, a 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 deaths – Reportedly produced by the same supercell that struck Dierks.[5] 30 people alone were confirmed dead 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 10 people in the eastern portions of Bald Knob, and nine fatalities were reported in rural locales. A person also died near Russell.[7] The tornado became the fourth deadliest in the U.S. state of Arkansas.[8]
F2 S of Mayflower Faulkner 2300 Unknown Small homes were demolished near Mayflower. Three homes were damaged and three were destroyed near Saltillo.[7]
F4 Wattensaw area Lonoke 2300 7.6 miles
(12.2 km)
2 deaths – A tornado hit near Wattensaw, killing two people. The tornado may have continued on to Georgetown and Hickory Ridge, for a total path length of 65 mi (105 km).[9]
F3 SW of Allport to SW of Hazen Lonoke 2300 16.2 miles
(25.9 km)
9 deaths – Nine people were killed near the town of England. 40 homes were destroyed, most of which were poorly constructed. The path may have been continuous—70 mi (110 km) long—with those of the Tollville and Cotton Plant tornadoes.[9]
F2 Hickory Plains to NE of Jasmine Prairie 2320 13.3 miles
(21.3 km)
5 deaths – Two deaths occurred at Hickory Plains.[9]
F? W of Tollville Prairie 2320 Unknown 1 death – This tornado occurred south of Hazen.[9] 15 homes were destroyed and 27 received damage.[5] One source cites two fatalities.[9]
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 deaths – All deaths 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 SW of Blackville to W of Cash 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, passing near Lake City.[9]
F4 Hickory Ridge Cross 0000 Unknown 4 deaths – All deaths occurred in the town of Hickory Ridge. 30 homes were destroyed and 86 were damaged.[9]
F3 Fisher to Trumann Poinsett, Mississippi 0045 Unknown 3 deaths – In Fisher, where one person may have died, 21 homes were damaged or destroyed. Additionally, there were two deaths north of Harrisburg. In Trumann, 24 buildings were damaged or destroyed. The third death also occurred at Trumann.[9]
F3 S of Marked Tree to E of Lepanto Poinsett 0045 9.4 miles
(15 km)
1 death – A small home was destroyed and 22 other homes were damaged.[9]
F3 Trumann to Blytheville Mississippi 0100 39.7 miles
(63.5 km)
1 fatality – One person died near Milligan Ridge. This tornado dissipated in the Blytheville area, but may have redeveloped into a new tornado near Yarbro.[9]
F4 S of Lapata Dyer 0000 4.7 miles
(7.5 km)
2 deaths – 12 homes were demolished near Bonicord, while five others were destroyed near RoEllen. Rating disputed, ranked F3 by Grazulis.[9]
F3 SE of Dyersburg to E of Newbern Dyer 0230 18.1 miles
(29 km)
10 deaths – The worst damage affected the community of Unionville.[5] The damage path extended through the eastern section of Dyersburg. At the Dyersburg airport, the tornado destroyed a hangar, numerous planes, and a new administration building.[5] Nine rather than 10 people may have died.[9]
F4 S of Owl Hoot Dyer 0230 2 miles
(3.2 km)
4 deaths – Four people died near Owl Hoot. 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 Gibson 0445 Unknown
F3 SE of Milan Carroll 0450 Unknown This tornado passed through the Milan Arsenal, damaging 30 buildings and 59 vehicles. Barracks were also damaged. Damage estimates reached $500,000 (1952 USD).[9]
F2 W of Leach Carroll 0500 Unknown 1 death – 12 homes were destroyed south of Huntingdon.[9]
F1 Carthage 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 S of Hollow Rock to NE of Bruceton Carroll 0517 5.1 miles
(8.2 km)
The business district of Bruceton was destroyed,[5] and three homes were demolished.[9]
F4 NE of Bolivar to W of Darden Hardeman, Chester, Henderson 0530 46.8 miles
(74.9 km)
38 deaths – This tornado descended in Hardeman County. It touched down northeast (possibly southwest) of Bolivar and moved northeast to the Darden area.[9] Four fatalities occurred in the northern section of Bolivar, where 14 homes were demolished. In Henderson, 120 homes were destroyed and 260 received damage in the northern half of the town. 23 people died in Henderson. The remaining 11 fatalities were reported from north of Jacks Creek to the vicinity of Darden.[9] The total path length may have been 65 mi (105 km).
F2 SE of Only Humphreys 0555 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
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 – Farms and tenant homes were devastated in the vicinity of Cooter. One source indicates that this tornado began in Arkansas, traversed the Mississippi River, and entered Tennessee, causing eight additional fatalities in Tennessee (25 deaths total).[9] The parent supercell thunderstorm was accompanied by hail. 70 homes were destroyed and 130 received damage.[5]
F? N of Madison Madison 0230 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
A brief tornado was observed. One person was injured.[5]
F4 E of Byhalia to SE of Pattersonville, Tennessee Marshall, Fayette (TN) 0400 29.6 miles
(47.4 km)
16 deaths – This tornado may have merged with a second, undocumented tornado upon touching down.[5] 22 homes were destroyed in Mississippi, while 16 were destroyed in Tennessee. The majority of the deaths were documented in Mississippi. The tornado passed northwest of Moscow in 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] One publication lists seventeen fatalities.[9]
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. 12 homes were unroofed, and approximately 40 received minor damage. Two children were thrown several hundred yards by the tornado, but survived with minor injuries.[9]
F2 SE of Spot Hickman 0620 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
3 deaths – Seven homes were destroyed and two were damaged. 11 families were impacted.[5]
F1 Carthage area Smith 1715 0.3 miles
(0.48 km)
Account of damage is unknown. One person was injured.[11]
F4 W of Falkville to S of Huntsville Morgan 2100 21.6 miles
(34.6 km)
4 deaths – 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

Non-tornadic effects

A significant blizzard affected the Great Plains. In Kansas, 15 inches (38 cm) of snow were recorded. On March 22, Charles City, Iowa, documented 11.6 inches (29 cm), which was the town's greatest 24-hour snowfall record at the time. Minnesota reported 17 inches (43 cm), while Bergland, Michigan, reported 2 feet (61.0 cm) of snowfall. Heavy snow and strong winds disrupted highways and road traffic. Flash floods also affected Sumner and Clay counties, Tennessee.[5]

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 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" (PDF). American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o U.S. Department of Commerce (1952). Climatological Data: National Summary (March 1952). U.S. Weather Bureau. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NatSum" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ Finch, Jonathan D. "Historical Tornado Cases for North America: 1950-1959". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  7. ^ a b c d Grazulis, p. 962
  8. ^ The Tornado Project. "The United States' Worst Tornadoes". Archived from the original on 2016-03-02. 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 Grazulis, p. 963
  10. ^ Gordon, John D.; Bobby Boyd; Mark A. Rose; Jason B. Wright (2000). "The Forgotten F5: The Lawrence County Supercell During the Middle Tennessee Tornado Outbreak of 16 April 1998" (PDF). National Weather Digest. National Weather Association. 24 (4): 3–10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 December 2012. The authors sent a detailed letter to the SPC recommending the two tornadoes from 1974, and the 1952 tornado mentioned above, be downgraded to F4. The SPC agreed to all three of these changes. The SPC database now reflects the conclusions of Professor Fujita's map of 1974, and Grazulis 1952 tornado report (1993). ... The authors suggested that the three former F5 tornadoes in Tennessee should be reclassified as F4. These changes have been adopted, making the 16 April 1998 Lawrence County tornado the only documented F5 in the history of Tennessee.
  11. ^ NCEI. "Storm Events Database – Event Details – National Centers for Environmental Information".

External links

  • Judsonia tornado damage photographs
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