May 27, 1973: Two Monster Tornadoes Ravage Parts Of Central Alabama

| May 27, 2017 @ 5:35 pm

Image from NOAA’s U.S. Daily Weather Maps

It was an extremely active end to the month of May of 1973 across a large part of the United States due to severe weather. From May 22nd through the 26th, several large and destructive tornadoes struck parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The worst of the severe weather struck on May 27th, as it will go down as a deadly day in Alabama weather history. Even though there were tornadoes in a few of the surrounding states, this day will be remembered for the F3 tornado that struck just northeast of Birmingham and a long-track F4 tornado that decimated the towns of Greensboro and Brent. Eight people lost their lives and another 243 were injured.

The final couple of weeks of the month of May 1973 proved to be extremely active for severe weather across a large portion of the United States. Starting on May 22nd and 23rd, tornadoes dropped out of the sky across portions of Texas. On the 24th, an F4 developed in Oklahoma, killing 2. By the 26th, two more F4s were accounted for in Oklahoma and Arkansas. But, It was the 27th which proved to be the deadliest for Alabama. Though six tornadoes developed around Alabama on the 27th, including 4 F2s, it was the F3 northeast of Birmingham and the long-track supercell which dropped an F4 through the towns of Greensboro and Brent, which did the most damage. These are accounts of those two killer storms on the evening of May 27, 1973.

F4 Tornado Affecting Hale, Bibb, Perry, Shelby, Talladega, & Clay Counties

Damage in Brent (The Birmingham Post-Herald 5/29/1973).

At approximately 5:20PM CDT, a severe thunderstorm affecting parts of Hale County dropped a tornado northeast of Demopolis. This tornado quickly became a F4 monster as it traveled northeastward, with estimated wind speeds somewhere between 210-261 MPH. A great amount of damage occurred in the locations of Greensboro, Brent, Centreville, Montevallo, Columbiana, Wilsonville, Childersburg, and many areas in between. The tornado finally lifted near Mt. Cheaha after creating a path of damage over 139 miles long and up to 800 yards wide at its largest. A total of six people were killed and another 128 were injured along the path, including the town of Brent where five lost their lives and 56 were injured when almost the complete town was destroyed. Another person died and 72 were injured in the town of Greensboro. A grand total of 216 buildings were destroyed, 570 buildings damaged, 97 mobile homes destroyed, and 45 businesses were either damaged or destroyed. Along with all of the structural damage, over 12,000 acres of timber was destroyed.

Be sure to read Demopolis resident Patrick Story’s experience of this tornado by clicking here.

F3 Center Point Tornado (Affecting Jefferson, St. Clair, & Etowah Counties)

Damage in Center Point (The Birmingham Post-Herold 4/28/73)

This large tornado touched down northeast of Tarrant at approximately 5:50PM CDT and started on its path of causing great damage. The first major location it hit was Center Point, where most of the damage of the entire path occurred. 32 frame homes were destroyed, along with 48 mobile homes, and more than 300 homes sustained damage. One person lost his life as he and his family were taking shelter in their basement, and the home collapsed. The tornado continued northeast passing close to St. Clair Springs, just south of Springville, and just north of Ashville, before lifting near Gadsden. The total damage path was estimated at 50 miles, and was 800 yards wide and its widest. Wind speeds were estimated at 162-209 MPH.

Our very own Bill Murray has a great story about this certain tornado that he posted on the blog a few years back. You can read it here.

Category: ALL POSTS, Met 101/Weather History

About the Author ()

Scott Martin is an operational meteorologist, professional graphic artist, musician, husband, and father. Not only is Scott a member of the National Weather Association, but he is also the Central Alabama Chapter of the NWA president. Scott is also the co-founder of Racecast Weather, which provides forecasts for many racing series across the USA. He also supplies forecasts for the BassMaster Elite Series events including the BassMaster Classic.

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