The path of the tornado into Smithville. Image created using NOAA aerial imagery and Google Earth. Aerial imagery taken May 4, 2011.

One of the most violent tornadoes in recorded human history tore through several communities in Mississippi and Alabama. Twenty-three were killed, and roughly 61 injured. The human impacts were horrific, and the damage inconceivable. There are two summaries detailing the event. One focuses on the Smithville, MS side. The second examines the portion in Alabama, which principally affected the communities of Shottsville and Hodges. Beyond connecting the two summaries, this overview page also features track maps and discrepancies.

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A diagram illustrating the incredible journey of an SUV. In total, it traveled 1,630 yards (MEMA, Brandon Johnson, Google Earth Pro, and NOAA Remote Sensing Division Emergency Response Imagery taken on May 4th).

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A view of the damage along County Road 20 east of Shottsville. Image created using USGS/Atlantic Group aerial imagery and Google Earth. Aerial imagery taken May 1, 2011.

Here are the original stats from the SPC. Statistics created for the second tornado are also featured below.


Path length: 37.1 miles

Width:  1320 yards

Fatalities:  23

Injuries:  137

Rating:  EF5

County:  Monroe, Itawamba (MS)/ Marion, Franklin (AL)

SPC Track Map

SPC Coordinates:    Start: 34.0455/-88.4450    End: 34.3226/-87.8924

Note: Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

EF Scale Map

Corrected coordinates based on ground level, aerial, and satellite imagery, as well as all reliable damage reports:

Start: 34.023601/-88.481982    End: 34.326527 /-87.886584

Note: Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

In Loving Memory

In Smithville, MS
Betty Newkirk, 78
Celia Jackson, 92 (oldest victim)
Courtney Easter, 21
Elvin Patterson, 80
Jean Manley, 70
Hazel Noe, 80 (died of injuries 6 days later)
Jesse Cox, 84
Jessica Pace, 18 (youngest victim in MS)
Carla Jones, 37 (died protecting her niece, nephew and son)
Laverne Patterson, 77
Lucille Parker, 86
Maxine Chism, 79 (died of injures 22 days later)
Mildred Elam, 79
Roy Estes, 63 (died of injures the next day)
Ruth Estes, 61
Scott Morris, 41

In Alabama
Rodney Ables, 51
Michelle Brown, 43
Tammy Johnson, 52
Jacob Ray, 5 (youngest victim)
Virginia Revis, 53
Allan Wideman, 49 (died of injuries 9 days later)
Jeanette Wideman, 52


We gathered information for this event from the SPC and NCDC Databases, the April 2011 Storm Data Publication (SDP), the NWS Memphis, NWS Birmingham, and NWS Huntsville Event Pages, before and after damage photographs, and extremely detailed analysis of aerial and satellite imagery and found the following differences:

Start Point:

  • The SPC/NCDC lists the starting point as 3 miles WSW of Smithville. Their coordinates are actually 3.52 miles WSW of Smithville.
  • The coordinates on the NWS Memphis website put it at 3.35 miles to the WSW of Smithville.
  • Extremely detailed analysis of treefall patterns indicates a start point 6.12 miles SW of Smithville.

    Start Time:

    • The NWS Memphis lists 3:44 pm CDT as the time of formation.
    • The SPC/NCDC/SDP list a start time of 3:42 pm CDT.
    • An earlier starting position determined by treefall analysis combined with radar data gives a start time of 3:40 p.m. CDT.

      End Time:

      • The SPC/NCDC/SDP/NWS Huntsville list 4:23 pm CDT as the end time.
      • An earlier ending time via radar data was found at 4:21 pm CDT.

        Total Path Length:

        • The NCDC and NWS Birmingham list a total path length of 37.3 miles.
        • According to the NWS Memphis, it was 35.1 miles.
        • According to the SPC and SDP, it was 37.1 miles.
        • Extremely detailed analysis of the damage yields a total path length of 40.49 miles.

          Maximum Width:

          • The SPC/NCDC/SDP/NWS list a maximum width of 1,320 yards.
          • Extremely detailed analysis of the damage yields a maximum width of 1,260 yards (0.72 miles).

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