Special Report

This Is the Most Destructive Tornado in Maine History

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Tornadoes are one of the most destructive natural phenomena on the planet. In the United States, they are also one of the most common. There were more than 72,000 tornadoes recorded in the United States from 1950 through 2020, resulting in nearly 6,000 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries, and property and crop damage in the billions of dollars.

Of course, parts of the United States are far more susceptible to tornadoes than others. Some states have reported fewer than several dozen tornadoes since 1950, and those tornadoes were mostly relatively weak, resulting in limited destruction. Meanwhile, other states have reported thousands of tornadoes over that period — and many of those tornadoes were devastating.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there have been 139 tornadoes in Maine from 1950 through 2020 — the 12th fewest among states. These tornadoes directly resulted in one death and 20 injuries.

The most destructive tornado on record in Maine began in Androscoggin County on Thursday, July 14, 1988. The tornado brought winds in excess of 73 mph and caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages, not adjusted for inflation.

All data on the number of unique tornadoes recorded in every state between 1950 and 2020 is from NOAA. Total deaths and injuries are also from NOAA. We only considered those fatalities and injuries that were classified as having resulted directly from the tornado. The monetary value of damages for the most destructive tornado includes damage to both crops and property. These values are rough estimates reported by NOAA and are not adjusted for inflation. Other tornadoes in a given state could have resulted in equal damage, but for the purposes of this story, only one tornado was selected as representative.

Rank State Total tornadoes; 1950-2020 Deaths resulting from tornadoes Injuries resulting from tornadoes
1 Texas 9,425 573 9,194
2 Kansas 4,648 236 2,841
3 Oklahoma 4,471 348 5,299
4 Florida 3,487 171 3,390
5 Nebraska 3,066 56 1,202
6 Iowa 2,976 86 2,272
7 Illinois 2,895 225 4,533
8 Mississippi 2,880 499 6,875
9 Missouri 2,741 399 4,493
10 Alabama 2,686 659 8,257
11 Louisiana 2,436 171 2,867
12 Arkansas 2,289 401 5,421
13 Colorado 2,213 5 276
14 Minnesota 2,150 100 1,980
15 Georgia 2,066 206 4,172
16 South Dakota 1,833 19 475
17 Indiana 1,787 266 4,279
18 North Dakota 1,649 26 362
19 Wisconsin 1,566 96 1,635
20 North Carolina 1,549 129 2,628
21 Tennessee 1,450 374 4,784
22 Ohio 1,300 196 4,657
23 Kentucky 1,213 148 3,066
24 Michigan 1,176 244 3,375
25 South Carolina 1,173 66 1,424
26 Pennsylvania 935 82 1,293
27 Virginia 856 38 943
28 Wyoming 718 4 106
29 New Mexico 627 5 163
30 New York 485 27 317
31 California 461 90
32 Montana 418 4 29
33 Maryland 394 9 319
34 Arizona 269 3 152
35 Idaho 216 9
36 Massachusetts 184 105 1,562
37 New Jersey 169 1 70
38 West Virginia 159 3 118
39 Maine 139 1 20
40 Utah 133 1 96
41 Washington 127 6 303
42 Oregon 121 5
43 Connecticut 117 4 703
44 New Hampshire 107 1 30
45 Nevada 94 2
46 Delaware 72 2 76
47 Vermont 46 10
48 Hawaii 42 6
49 Rhode Island 13 23
50 Alaska 3

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