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Monster Tornado Is First EF-5 Twister in 3 Years

Images of the storms across the South on April 27.
Storms across the South on April 27. (Image credit: NASA)

For the first time in three years, an EF-5 tornado — the highest ranking on the tornado damage scale — has struck the United States. The EF-5 tornado touched down in Smithville, Miss., on April 27, the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed today.

After reviewing the damage, the NWS office in Memphis, Tenn., upgraded the tornado that hit Smithville to an EF-5, with winds of up to 205 mph (330 kph), said John Sirmon, of the NWS Memphis office. Entire neighborhoods in Smithville, population 882, were blown away by the twister, Sirmon said.

"They took a direct a hit," Sirmon told OurAmazingPlanet. "Catastrophic damage is the way I would describe the damage." [The Tornado Damage Scale in Images]

The tornado traveled 2.82 miles (4.5 km) and was a half mile wide, killing 14 people and injuring 40 more.

The last time an EF-5 struck was on May 25, 2008, in the Parkersburg-New Hartford area of Iowa. That monster storm killed nine people.

This latest twister is the first F-5 (on the old tornado strength scale) or EF-5 tornado in Mississippi since 1966.

The EF-5 was part of a massive tornado outbreak on April 27 across the Deep South. More than 130 reported tornadoes may have claimed 300 or more lives in six states. The historic tornado outbreak is likely the deadliest in nearly 40 years.

On April 3-4, 1974, the "Super Outbreak" of more than 148 tornadoes killed 330 people. That outbreak had seven twisters that were rated F-5 intensity and 23 that were rated F-4 on the old Fujita damage scale.

Reach OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at bisrael@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.