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Devastating twister could rank among deadliest tornados in US history

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The monster tornadoes that swept across multiple states in the Central US overnight have left at least least 70 dead — but with fears the death toll could rise above 100, the outbreak of twisters may wind up ranking among America’s most deadly.

The nation has seen 25 tornadoes that killed 80 or more people since 1840, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Tornadoes that raged through the U.S. last night may be among the most deadly in the nation’s history.
AFP via Getty Images

The seventh-worst took place 10 years ago, in May 2011, when 158 people were killed by a massive twister that devastated Joplin, Missouri.

Here’s a look at the deadliest tornadoes in US history:

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1. March 18, 1925 – The Tri-State Tornado kills 695 as it crosses Missouri, southern Illinois and into southwestern Indiana.

The deadliest tornado in American history was “The Tri-State Tornado” that killed 625 people in 1925.
AFP via Getty Images

2. May 6, 1840 – The Great Natchez Tornado kills 317 in Natchez, Mississippi.

3. May 27, 1896 – St. Louis-East St. Louis tornadoes kill 305 in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky.

4. April 5, 1936 – Tupelo, Mississippi tornado kills 216.

5. April 6, 1936 – Gainsville, Georgia, tornado kills 203.

6. April 9, 1947 – Woodward, Oklahoma, tornado kills 181.

Tornado damage
People fear the death toll from Friday’s tornadoes may rise to over 100 people.
AFP via Getty Images

7. May 22, 2011 – Joplin, Missouri, tornado kills 158.

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8. April 24, 1908 – Amite, Lousiana, and Purvis, Mississippi, tornado kills 143.

9. June 12, 1899 – New Richmond, Wisconsin, tornado kills 117.

10. June 8, 1953 – Flint, Michigan, tornado kills 116.

The death toll of Friday’s storm is expected to rise as assessments are done in towns along the path of the twisters, which stretches for hundreds of miles through the Mississippi Valley from Arkansas north to Kentucky.

Torano damage
At least two died at an Amazon wearhouse in Illinois and search and rescue operations are ongoing at a Missouri candle factory that had 110 workers inside.
Getty Images

Search and rescue operations were ongoing at a flattened candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky that had as many as 110 workers inside and an Amazon warehouse in Illinois where at least two workers died. It’s unclear exactly how many workers were in the facility when part of the the roof and one wall collapsed.

Deaths were also reported in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee from the storm system some have dubbed the “Quad-State Tornado.” In all, more than 30 tornadoes were reported from the system, a rare burst of heavy activity for December that National Weather Service Meteorologist Audra Bruschi said was brought on by unusually warm and wet air.

Damage assessments are underway across the states that will enable the Weather Service to determine the strength of the twister that leveled Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Kentucky, leaving the towns with few undamaged buildings.

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Tornado damage
More than thirty tornadoes were reported across the four states.
Getty Images
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said the tornado that leveled two towns in his state travelled 200 miles on the ground.
AP

Bruschi said the agency has not yet confirmed Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s statement that the tornado traveled more than 200 miles on the ground or how strong its winds were.

Speculation on the ground has suggested the twister, which some suggested was a mile wide, reached an EF4, meaning winds between 166 and 200 mph, or EF5, meaning winds over 200 mph, on the Enhanced Fuijita Scale. Local reports said at least one twister, which hit near Bowling Green, Kentucky, reached at least an EF2, which ranges from 113 to 157 mph.

“Certainly the damage picture shows that it’s been pretty extensive,” Bruschi said. It will be several days before the determinations are complete.

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