April 2011 Super Outbreak: A Look Back 13 Years Later

Thirteen years ago, the Southeast faced one of the most catastrophic tornado outbreaks in American history. From April 25th to April 28th, 2011, the region experienced what came to be known as the Super Outbreak. Let’s take a closer look at the meteorological conditions that fueled the outbreak, the extent of the damage in the CSRA, and the lasting impact it left behind.

What Fueled the Outbreak?

Imagine a recipe for extreme weather. The Super Outbreak had all the right ingredients:

  • A powerful jet stream – a fast-moving air current high in the atmosphere.

  • A southward dip in the jet stream, creating instability.

  • Warm, humid air near the ground – perfect fuel for storms.

These ingredients mixed to create severe thunderstorms. Strong wind shear, like twisting an invisible straw in the atmosphere, gave these storms the extra kick to spawn tornadoes.

CSRA Impact: Escaped the Worst, But Not Unscathed

The good news: the CSRA avoided the most destructive tornadoes. But we weren’t completely out of the woods.

  • Large Hail: Quarter to golf ball-sized hail pounded areas like Evans, Grovetown, and Martinez, causing damage.

  • Widespread Tree Damage: Throughout Georgia and South Carolina, trees were no match for the strong winds.

  • A Lone Tornado: A confirmed EF-1 tornado (winds up to 105 mph) touched down in Warren County. Thankfully, there were no injuries, but fallen trees damaged eight buildings.

As we mark the 13th anniversary of the April 2011 Super Outbreak, we’re reminded of the communities affected and the strength they showed in challenging times. Though the CSRA was spared the worst, this event emphasizes the ongoing need to enhance our readiness for severe weather. By staying informed and having a plan, we can better protect ourselves and our loved ones from future storms.

Do you have a weather-related topic that you would like to know the science behind? Submit your ideas to mhyatt@wjbf.com.

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