World's Worst Tornadoes

A funnel cloud touching down can pack brutal winds that not only rip away structures but take precious lives. Here are the worst tornadoes on record.

Daulatpur-Saturia Tornado, Bangladesh, 1989

(Jean Beaufort/

This storm was about a mile wide and traveled ​50 miles through poor areas of the Dhaka region of Bangladesh, which is, along with the U.S. and Canada, one of the countries most frequently hit by tornadoes. The death toll, estimated around 1,300, is in large part to the shoddy construction in the slums that couldn't withstand the brute force of the twister, which also left around 80,000 people homeless. More than 20 villages were leveled and 12,000 people were injured.

Tri-State Tornado, 1925

tornado ruins

This is considered to be the deadliest tornado in U.S. history. The 219-mile path that it cut through Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois is on record as the longest in world history. The death toll from the March 18, 1925 twister is 695, with more than 2,000 injured. Most of the deaths were in southern Illinois. The width of the monstrous tornado was three-quarters of a mile, though some reports put it at a mile wide in places. Winds may have exceeded 300 mph. The twister destroyed 15,000 homes.

The Great Natchez Tornado, 1840

tornado ruins

This tornado struck Natchez, Mississippi on May 7, 1840, and holds the record of the only massive tornado in the U.S. to have killed more people than it injured. The death toll was at least 317, with the majority of casualties being on flatboats sunk along the Mississippi River. The death toll was likely greater because the deaths of slaves would not have been counted in this era. "There is no telling how widespread has been the ruin," wrote the Free Trader across the river in Louisiana. "Reports have come in from plantations 20 miles distant in Louisiana, and the rage of the tempest was terrible. Hundreds of (slaves) killed, dwellings swept like chaff from their foundations, the forest uprooted, and the crops beaten down and destroyed."

The St. Louis - East St. Louis Tornado, 1896

tornado ruins

This tornado hit May 27, 1896, striking the major city of St. Louis, Missouri and its neighbor East St. Louis, Illinois across the Mississippi River. At least 255 died but the toll may have been higher as people on boats may have washed down the river. It's the only tornado on this list to be considered an F4 instead of the most powerful F5. Less than a month later, the city hosted the 1896 Republican National Convention, where William McKinley was nominated before being elected the 25th president of the United States.

The Tupelo Tornado, 1936

(Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

This tornado struck Tupelo, Miss., on April 5, 1936, killing 233 people. Among the survivors was a young Elvis Presley and his mother. Official records at the time didn't include African-Americans, and the twister heavily damaged black neighborhoods, so the toll is likely higher. Forty-eight city blocks were destroyed. It was an especially deadly storm year as the next night a tornado swept through Gainesville, Georgia, killing 203. But the death toll could even be higher as many buildings collapsed and caught fire.