1994 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak

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The 1994 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak was a notable tornado outbreak that occurred on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1994. It was the most notable tornado event of the year in the United States.

Forty people were killed in the outbreak and 491 were injured. A total of 29 tornadoes ripped through Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, causing $140 million in damage.

Outbreak summary

Unlike the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, this outbreak was mainly confined to the Southeastern United States. What was unusual about this outbreak was that it was at its strongest during the late morning hours. A very intense supercell thunderstorm formed a wall cloud southwest of Ragland in St. Clair County. A tornado spun out of the storm and headed toward Piedmont. At 11:39 a.m., it slammed into the Goshen United Methodist Church, collapsing the roof on the congregation during a Palm Sunday service. It claimed 20 lives and injured 90. Two other houses of worship were destroyed mid-service as well. The tornado was an F4 on the Fujita scale. The supercell that formed this tornado ended up tracking for 200 miles to South Carolina.

The first violent and the deadliest tornado of the outbreak developed 1 mi south-southwest of Ragland in St. Clair County, at 10:55 a.m. CST. With a 45 to 55 mph forward speed, the tornado first destroyed buildings east of Ragland before killing a woman on a campground west of Neely Henry Lake. Just prior to entering Calhoun County, the tornado destroyed 18 homes and 20 mobile homes.Upon crossing the north side of Ohatchee—which was later to be hit by an EF4 tornado on April 27, 2011—the tornado threw a van into a ditch, killing a man inside and injuring three other occupants. After causing the death on U.S. Highway 431, it passed through sparsely-populated, wooded land about 4 to 5 mi west-northwest of Piedmont. As it passed north of Piedmont, the tornado struck the Goshen United Methodist Church in the former community of Goshen, killing 20 people in the church and injuring 92. The tornado also destroyed two nearby churches, but killed no one in their congregations. Parishioners in the Goshen United Methodist Church apparently received no warning while attending services and so were crushed to death as the walls and roof collapsed upon them. After striking the church, the tornado continued on and later dissipated convert 5 mi northeast of Rock Run, near the Alabama–Georgia state line.

At 11:02 a.m., a F-2 tornado damaged 103 homes just south of Guntersville in Marshall County and later passed near Lake Guntersville State Park. It also partially destroyed the roof of a nursing home. This tornado was responsible for 30 injuries.

At 11:57 a.m. a weak F-0 tornado damaged six homes, blew down electrical lines and trees, and destroyed three greenhouses near Nectar in Blount County.

At 4:02 p.m. a F-1 tornado hit an unpopulated area near Lake Tuscaloosa in Tuscaloosa County, from redeveloping afternoon storms. Transmission towers downed.

At 4:33 p.m. a F-2 tornado extensively damaged businesses on Cahaba Valley Road as well as nearby mobile homes and caused minor damage to a school in Pelham in Shelby County. This tornado dissipated just west of Meadowbrook.


  • Hamilton, David W., Yuh-Lang Lin, Ronald P. Weglarz, Michael L. Kaplan (1998). "Jetlet Formation from Diabatic Forcing with Applications to the 1994 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).
  • Kaplan, Michael L., Yuh-Lang Lin, David W. Hamilton, Robert A. Rozumalski (1998). "The Numerical Simulation of an Unbalanced Jetlet and Its Role in the Palm Sunday 1994 Tornado Outbreak in Alabama and Georgia". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).
  • Koch, Steven E., David Hamilton, Devin Kramer, Adam Langmaid (1998). "Mesoscale Dynamics in the Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).
  • Langmaid, Adam H., Allen J. Riordan (1998). "Surface Mesoscale Processes during the 1994 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak". Monthly Weather Review, 126 (8).

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