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Daryl Ritchison, Published April 16 2012

Weather Talk: 1965 Palm Sunday twisters led to changes in warning system

April 11, 1965, was Palm Sunday. At least 21 tornadoes were recorded on that day, with 17 of those being rated as F3 or higher.

By the end of the day, 271 people lost their lives and more than 3,000 were injured from those tornadoes. It is known as the Palm Sunday outbreak, and at the time, it was the second-worst outbreak known. Even today, it ranks as the fourth-deadliest outbreak on record.

That horrific day led to significant changes to the warning system. Today, people understand that tornado watches are issued when conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. But back in 1965, the wording of tornado forecasts often led to confusion. Also, radar coverage and storm spotters were limited, so tornadoes came as a surprise in many areas.

Today, good communication between the National Weather Service and the media, Doppler radars and better understanding of severe weather alerts by the public are all improvements that came from lessons learned that fateful day.


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