SPC Stats

Path length: 14.7 miles

Width:  550 yards

Fatalities:  22

Injuries:  130

Rating:  F5

County:  Jefferson

It was a powerful F5 tornado that moved 14.7 miles through parts of Jefferson County, AL on this day in 1977.  This tornado is named after the area which received the greatest damage: Smithfield Drive and Smithfield Lane.  Per the Storm Data Summary:  The twister developed about 4 miles NW of downtown Birmingham.  It moved to the northeast at 60 mph and lifted east of Tarrant.  167 homes were destroyed, 48 had major damage.  Daniel Payne college was badly damaged.  Per Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes, cars and trucks were “hurled like matchsticks” from I-65.

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 33.52 / -86.93   End:  33.60 / -86.70      

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

Photos from the NWS Birmingham

Aerial view of damage east of US 78 and approximately midway along the tornado track.
Ground view of damage near US 31 and I-65. This is where the tornado moved onto a ridge and also the area of the newest and best built homes. The picture is looking generally northeast. After destroying almost everything on this street, the tornado emerged off the ridge and down a steep embankment in the vicinity of US 31 and I-65. At the time it left the ridge, two dump trucks were airborne in the funnel.
Ground view of damage soon after the tornado was completely on the ground east of US 78.
Aerial view of a portion of the Smithfield tornado damage. Many of the homes in this subdivision represent F5 damage.
Second aerial view of a portion of the Smithfield tornado damage. Many of the homes in this subdivision represent F5 damage. Tornado path runs from lower right toward upper left of this image.

Videos

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the April 1977 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Width:

  • All sources list the max width around 500-550 yards.
  • In the text of the Storm Data summary though, they mention the tornado was 3/4 of a mile at its widest point, that would be 1320 yards.

Path Length:

  • Storm Data and Grazulis have 15 mile path.
  • SPC/NCDC has a 14.7 mile path.

    Sources:

    The Storm Prediction Center

    NCDC Storm Events Database

    April 1977 Storm Data Publication

    NWS Birmingham Overview of the Event

    newspapers.com

    Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1192.

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