30 Years Later: The August 28, 1990 F-5 Plainfield Tornado (2023)

Overview

Between 3:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. CDT on August 28th, 1990, a violent F5 tornado ripped through Kendall and Will counties taking the lives of 29 people and injuring 350. The tornado left a 16.4 mile-long damage path which ranged from 600 yards to a half a mile in width. An estimated total of $160 million dollars in damages was added up with a total of 470 homes destroyed and 1000 damaged.

Not only was this F5 tornado disastrous, it was also very unusual for several reasons:

  • The Plainfield tornado was the first ever tornado greater than an F3 rating, since records began in 1950, to occur during the month of August in the state of Illinois.
  • It was the second killer tornado since 1950 to occur during the month of August in Illinois.
  • This tornado remains the only F5/EF5 rated tornado documented in the United States during the month of August.
  • The tornado had low clouds and rain surrounding it, making it difficult to see. Because of this, no known photographs or videos of this tornado exist.
  • The tornado approached from the northwest; most tornadoes approach from the southwest.
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Map of the Plainfield tornado's track, based on a damage survey performed by Dr. Ted Fujita

Downloadable KMZ file

Downloadable shapefile

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Close-up of track over the Wheatland Plains subdivisionClose-up of track over PlainfieldClose-up of track over the Joliet/Crest Hill area
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Maps showing parts of present-day Plainfield with roads impacted by the tornado that were present in 1990 (red) and newer roads that were built afterwards (green), showing just how much more of an impact this tornado would have had if it occurred today.
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30 Years Later: The August 28, 1990 F-5 Plainfield Tornado (8)

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The original storm survey work by the late Dr. Theodore Fujita of the University of Chicago.

Before the Enhanced Fujita Scale was put in use in 2007, the tornado damage was assessed by using the Fujita Scale. On the Fujita Scale, an F5 tornado has estimated wind speeds of 261-318 mph and is defined as having incredible damage in which strong frame houses can be leveled and swept off of foundations, automobile-sized objects can be lifted up into the air, and trees are usually debarked.

    Damage Photos

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    30 Years Later: The August 28, 1990 F-5 Plainfield Tornado (11)

    Aerial Damage Photos

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    Accounts

    For more, see our 2020 Facebook Post. Also see our 2015 Facebook Post at the 25th Anniversary.

    Meteorology

    (Video) August 28, 1990 Plainfield tornado

    The atmospheric conditions that spawned this deadly storm were typical of those that lead to severe weather. An upper-level shortwave trough was moving through the Great Lakes area, while below a cold front was forecast to push its way south through northern Illinois. These were the focusing mechanisms for severe weather.

    In fact, the necessary recipe for severe weather was all present:moisture, instability, a source of lift, and wind shear were all present. There wasoneingredient for tornadoes though that appeared to be missing: a sharp change in wind speed and direction in the lower levels (~5,000 ft) of the atmosphere. Deep layer shear (~3,000 to 35,000 ft) was certainly considerable, with strong upper-level winds supportive of multicell and supercell storms with damaging winds and large hail. Without low-level shear, however, the data suggested that tornadoes may not be a prominent threat.

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    30 Years Later: The August 28, 1990 F-5 Plainfield Tornado (24)
    2 p.m. CDT August 28, 1990 surface map showing the hot and moist air mass in place with a cold front pushing in.7 p.m. CDT August 28, 1990 Peoria, IL weather balloon launch data. Noted on this sounding plot is a massive amount of instability and winds increasing in speed above 5,000 ft.

    At 10:00 a.m., the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (NSSFC) in Kansas City, Missouri (predecessor to the Storm Prediction Center, or SPC of Norman, Oklahoma) upgraded their severe thunderstorm outlook for northern Illinois from a Slight to a Moderate Risk, suggesting a greater coverage of damaging storms. At 1:28 p.m., NSSFC issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for portions of northern Illinois.After thunderstorms began to develop near the north central Illinois and Wisconsin border around noon, conditions increasingly began to favor supercells. CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) values rose from 4000 J/kg across much of northern Illinois to an incredible 7000 J/kg by 3:00 p.m., giving thunderstorms extremely explosive energy. The cold front could be seen almost exactly crossing the state border at this time, with the high values south representative of very warm temperatures in the mid to upper 90s and oppressive dew points reaching the upper 70s.

    Despite the continued lack of pronounced low-level shear, the impressive parameters for supercell growth allowed an initialstorm to quickly produce one or two brief tornadoes near Pecatonica and Seward, Illinois, just west of Rockford at 1:42 p.m. This occurred shortly after the NSSFC issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the area at 1:28 p.m. As a dominant storm emerged later and ventured further into extreme instability and strong shear, it exploded to a height of over 65,000 feet and displayed classic supercell behavior, including a hook echo and southeast movement to the right of the upper-level winds that would normally steer it. This motionbrought the storm through DeKalb and Kane Counties as it dealt strong winds and a swath of golf ball to tennis-ball sized hail.

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    GOES visibleimages showing the development and progression of thethunderstorms
    across northern Illinois at (a) 12:46 pm CDT; (b) 1:46 pm CDT; (c) 2:46 pm CDT; and
    (d) 3:46 pm CDT on the afternoon of August 28.

    Photo from the Natural Disaster Survey Report.

    As this storm continued to build, a change in low-level winds was observed. Once generally northwest, surface winds quickly backed to the southwest. With surface winds out of the southwest and the upper-level winds from the northwest, the change in wind direction allowed nearly 90 degrees of directional shear with height; more than necessary for rotating storms and increasing the tornado threat.

    Unfortunately, that turningin such an extremely unstable atmosphere was all that was necessary for the devastation caused on this day. The supercell first dropped four separate brief tornadoes in rural southern Kane County, but after these attempts it was able to fully realize the wind shear it had been born into and formed an extremely powerful tornado near Oswego in Kendall County.

    Reanalysis of the meteorological environment from that day can also shedlight to the ingredients that were at work. Below are some reanalyzed images from the ERA5 dataset that was created from observational data that day. These imagesfocuson kinematics (wind fields and associated parameters) from August 28, 1990. Note these images are not from the NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC), but were analyzed so the output is in a format consistent with their Hourly Mesoanalysis that NWS forecastersuse in real-timeduring severe weather events.

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    Aug 28, 1990 4 p.m. CDT: Reanalyzed 250 mb heights, winds, and divergenceAug 28, 1990 4 p.m. CDT: Reanalyzed 500 mb heights, winds, and temperaturesAug 28, 1990 4 p.m. CDT: Reanalyzed effective deep layer shear

    As shown by thesereanalysis images, the strong upper level (250 mb)and mid level (500 mb) winds, known as jet streaks,were shifting southward and their influence was quickly spreading over the area in the afternoon. The analyzed 250 mb winds of 80-85 kt impinginginto northern Illinois is right at record levels for late August over northern Illinoisusing the SPC Sounding Climatology dataset. This setup, especially at peak heating time in the afternoon (i.e. combined with explosive instability), was favorable for a regionof robust ascent and well-organized storm structure. The effective shear of 40+ kt was sufficient for sustained supercellstorm structure.

    Here is a reanalyzed sounding, or vertical atmospheric profile plot, also from the ERA-5 dataset. This is for 1 p.m. that afternoon in Romeoville, IL which is just a few miles away from where the tornado tracked. This is modified for the temperature (91°) and dew point (76°) observed in the area at that time.

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    Aug 28, 1990 1 p.m. CDT reanalyzed sounding for Romeoville, IL

    This reanalyzed sounding indicates the extreme instability (6,000 J/kg+) that was observed in the region by the Peoria (PIA) sounding later that day. The wind barbs gradually turn and increase in speed with height, characterizing the wind shear of that day. The low-level turning is not particularly strong but it's sufficient for supercells, especially in the proximity of any near-surface backing of the winds. This may have been the case that day near a meteorological boundary/discontinuity. Also a possibility was that ahead of the storm cluster moving from north central Illinois, the low-level winds increased, possibly only an hour or so in advance, but enough to markedly increase the low-level shear.

    This sounding really captures a northwest flow severe weather event in the Midwest. The low-level winds do not have to necessarily be from the due south for a potent tornado setup, and the extreme instability and deep layer shear and turning can compensate for a marginal-modest low-level shear profile. As a very interesting point on this sounding, see the Sounding Analogue System (SARS) on the bottom center for dates that had similar observed soundings to this reanalyzed profile. The two supercell storm mode dates listed in the region are indeed August 28, 1990 (Peoria sounding)and the July 13, 2004 afternoon sounding from NWS Central Illinois (ILX), which was aday that saw a violent F-4 tornado strike near Roanoke, IL. That too was a potent northwest flow event during summertime.

    Advancement

    Advancements over the Past 30 Years

    For the 25th anniversary of the 1990 Plainfield tornado in 2015, we attempted to summarize some of the key advances in meteorology that had taken place since that event. Over the past five years, additional remarkable advances have continued to change the way we forecast, warn for, and communicate the threats posed by severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. This information was compiled by former student volunteers Nicole Batzek and Cameron Nixon as well as past and present staff of NWS Chicago.

    Some of the information below was shared at the 25th Anniversaryand some pertains to even more recent advances. These fall into the following categories:

    • Modeling

    • Observing

    • Monitoring

      (Video) Eight Minutes in August: The F-5 Plainfield Tornado of 1990

    • Spotting

    • Warning

    • Communicating

    • Radar

    Modeling

    Within the science of computer programming, the practice of numerical modeling has grown from almost nonexistent to being a vital part of the forecast process.

    • In 1990, few computer models existed and those that did were not nearly as advanced as they are today.

    • Now, numerous, highly complex models including the GFS (Global Forecast System), the ECMWF (European Model), the NAM (North American Mesoscale), the RAP (Rapid Refresh), and the HRRR (High-Resolution Rapid Refresh) can provide insight into weather conditions, including those favorable for severe weather hours, days, and even a week in advance.

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    Model simulation of radar reflectivity vs. actual observation of a derecho event in the Mid-Atlantic.

    Observing

    The observation of current weather conditions has grown from spotty and infrequent to dense and continuous. Now, ASOS (Automated Surface Observing System) stations cover the country, and “mesonets” are being created that monitor subtle changes in very specific locations, providing exceedingly high spatial and temporal data.

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    Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS)

    Monitoring

    Weather Radar has also become increasingly more effective in “seeing” through the inner workings of thunderstorms.

    • In 1990, the NWS Chicago radar used 1974 technology which could only tell us the intensity of precipitation, leading us to infer storm types based on patterns. Warning forecasters, who were remotely located from the radar site, could only view basic data on a TV monitor, and needed to have details of what the radar operator was seeing relayed to them through radar summary products or by phone.

    • The current NWS Chicago radar, which is located at the Weather Forecast Office, is more powerful with much higher resolution. Thanks to Doppler capability, it can detect motion within a storm, allowing us to know if and where it is rotating or showing signs of producing a tornado. In addition, it features Dual-Polarization technology, which can distinguish between rain, hail, ice, snow and other material, and in some cases can serve as an alert that a tornado is on the ground by detecting debris!

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    Dual Polarization Radar image. See below for amore extensive discussion of recent advances in radar technology.

    Beyond radar, another very significant advance has been the deployment of new GOES satellites starting in 2017. Unlike previous satellites which had relatively coarse resolutions, less frequent updates, and slower data delivery, the new GOES satellites can scan portions of the United States looking at 16 different wavelengths of energy using a horizontal resolution from 0.5 to 2 km, a time resolution of 1 minute, and a data latency of just 1 minute. The information in the 16 wavelengths can be combined to tell a forecaster things like whether a storm may start producing lightning, or the apparent strength of the updraft in a storm based on the temperature of the overshooting top relative to the rest of the thunderstorm anvil.

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    Click image for 14-hour satellite loop of the 10 August 2020 derecho shared on Twitter.

    The new GOES satellites also contain a Geostationary Lightning Mapper that helps forecasters track trends in lightning activity and anticipate thunderstorm intensification.

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    Satellite image courtesy of NWS Green Bay

    When it comes to monitoring evolvingweather ahead of and during potential high impact events, mesoanalysis has seen incredible advancement, especially in the past decade. Much of this has to do with satellite data but also advances in computer model analysis and ever-growing conceptual understanding of severe weather and tornadoes. NWS meteorologists train onrecognizing, forecasting, communicating, and warning severe weather events throughout the entire year. Applying training and research-to-operations is a key foundation toward messaging severe weather threat areas and times, and now this is routinelydone by NWS offices ahead of potential severe weather events.

    Spotting

    With increasing awareness of severe weather, more people are willing to learn how to prepare themselves.

    In 1990, the NWS was able to run spotter training sessions that taught just over 1000 people how to recognize severe storms. On August 28th, however, no organized spotter networks were activated, thus no reports of wind damage, hail or tornadoes were received by the Chicago NWS office until after the worst had occurred. Storm chasers were able to observe a wall cloud, hail and high winds through rural DeKalb and Kane Counties, but they could not get ahead of the storm to see the tornado form. Without cell phones, their observations could not be relayed to the NWS, who in turn had little or no communications with emergency management and law enforcement in Kane, Kendall and Will Counties prior to or during the storm. The first report of a tornado was received as it dissipated in Joliet, after the damage had been done.

    Now, the Chicago NWS trains nearly 3,000 people a year in spotting, usually between February and April to prepare for severe weather season. An all-day severe weather training seminar is conducted every year by DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, College of DuPage, and NWS for dedicated spotters and emergency management. Not only do spotters now have a variety of ways to easily report severe weather and their location in real-time, but live video streaming is becoming increasingly popular amongst the spotter and storm chaser community. Spotter training now emphasizes safety precautions, the importance of a weather-ready plan and how to receive weather information. It also demonstrates how to observe specific cloud features indicative of a severe storm or the possibility of a tornado, and how to report any information so that warnings come sooner.

    Warning

    (Video) Weather History: 1990 Plainfield Tornado

    With meteorology’s overwhelming advancements it is now possible to know with greater accuracy who to warn, and warn people earlier when the few extra minutes matter most.

    • Before, entire counties would be placed under blanket Tornado Warnings which provided little in the way of tornado impact information. These warnings were first relayed to emergency management, law enforcement and the media by radio and wire services. The public received these warnings through two NOAA Weather Radio stations, one in Rockford and one in Chicago.

    • Now, all warnings are relayed almost instantaneously via satellite communications, and eleven NOAA Weather Radio transmitters across northern Illinois and northwest Indiana provide coverage to nearly 100 percent of the population. Radio broadcasts contain coded information that can trigger radios for specific types of alerts for specific counties. Tornado warnings, such as those issued for the devastating tornadoes that impacted Rochelle and Fairdale, Illinois on April 9, 2015, distinguish between tornadoes that are “Radar indicated”, “Radar confirmed”, “spotter confirmed” or “law enforcement confirmed”, include cities and other locations in the path and the estimated time they will be impacted, and uses strategic wording to convey the damage potential, from “Considerable” to “Catastrophic”. An example from April 9th, 2015 is shown below.

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    Text of Rochelle Area Tornado Warning from April 9, 2015

    Communicating

    Communication methods, frequency and availability have changed dramatically.

    • In 1990, the slow process of reporting and relaying information was sometimes not enough, and unfortunately for some the warnings came too late.

    • Now, in addition to radio and television, a plethora of methods of communication have emerged that allow for a redundancy in communication that reaches as many people as possible.

      • The NWS has a much closer and more effective relationship with county and community emergency management.

      • To help warn large groups of people more quickly, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, and NOAA have teamed up to provide weather radios to every school in the country.

      • With the significant advancements in mobile technology, a large percentage of the population can receive and communicate warnings instantly by cell phone or other mobile device. The WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) system, a joint cooperation by the FCC and FEMA, now pushes Tornado and considerable Flash Flood Warnings straight to cellular devices no matter their volume or notification settings.

      • Online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter ensure warnings reach hundreds or thousands of people in minutes not to mention serves as a growing source of ground truth of the impact a storm is having. In addition to satellite, radio, cellular and internet feeds, NWS Chicago has made extensive use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to convey high severe weather potential.

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    Example of Social Media Post during the April 9, 2015 violent tornado event that struck Fairdale, IL.

    Changes in Radar Monitoring Over the Last 30 Years

    Much has changed with the National Weather Service’s radar program since the Plainfield Tornado. Throughout the 1990s, the network of 128 WSR-57 and WSR-74 radars (WSR stands for “Weather Surveillance Radars”) were replaced by the WSR-88D as part of the NWS “Modernization”. This is the doppler radar that’s still in use today at National Weather Service forecast offices, with the associated fleet of 159 S-band radars making up the Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) network.

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    Example of WSR-57 radar image from Nashville in 1971.

    Radar Upgrades

    Since its initial installation at WFO Chicago, our radar has undergone a series of additional upgrades as advances in radar meteorology have allowed us to continually improve our remote sensing capabilities. This includes improvements in post-processing techniques used to translate the “raw” radar signals into the data we’re used to seeing on computer and television displays, to physical hardware changes which took place towards the end of 2011 as part of the nationwide Dual Polarization upgrade. New radar products such as correlation coefficient and differential reflectivity allow us to distinguish between rain, hail, ice, snow and other material, and in some cases can serve as an alert that a tornado is on the ground by detecting debris!

    Radar Resolution: Advances in signal processing--the conversion of the electronic signals received by the radar into data displays such as the one below--have allowed us to greatly increase the resolution of the WSR-88D, even without any physical alterations to the radar itself. This has resulted in an 8-fold increase in the data available for storm interrogation!

    The first series of images (black and white) are from 2:27 p.m. through 3:49 p.m. CDT on August 28, 1990, showing a hook echo on the storm as it moved into northwest Will County, from the Marseilles WSR-74. Theimages to the rightshow how the earlier Doppler radar images (just a few years after 1990) appeared versus the higher resolution available today. So note that even the “THEN” image was not available until after the Plainfield tornado.


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    Original WSR-74 radar images of the tornadic supercell on Aug. 28, 1990

    (Video) Shrouded In Death - The Plainfield F5, 8/28/1990

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    Digitized WSR-74 image from 8/28/1990 compared to legacy and super resolution imagery from the WSR-88D

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    Digitizedradar loop of tornadic supercell on Aug. 28, 1990from 2:27 PM to 3:49 PM CDT

    Better Radar Scanning Strategies

    A new scanning strategy known as SAILS (Supplemental Adaptive Intra-Volume Low-Level Scan) allows our radar to make repeated scans at the lowest elevation within an individual volume scan. Depending on the scanning strategy employed, this results in low-level updates as frequently as every 60 to 90 seconds, compared to every 5-6 minutes during the 1990s and early 2000s. A further addition was rolled out in 2020, allowing us to make repeated scans in the low AND mid-levels of thunderstorms to better sample developing rotation, for example.

    Preparedness

    Bottom Line: Is Chicago Prepared?

    Despite the advances in science, technology, communications, and education, the Chicago metro area remains vulnerable to significant and potentially devastating severe weather events.

    The Plainfield Tornado was 30 years ago. There has not been a violent F4/EF4 or F5/EF5 tornado in the Chicago metro area since 1990 (list of significant tornadoes in the Chicago metro). That means an entire generation of citizens has never experienced a major tornadoin the metro area. Many people have moved to northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana from other parts of the country, or other parts of the world, and may not be familiar with Chicago’s history of violent tornadoes. Many people still believe the myths that tornadoes can’t hit urban areas or will be stopped by the cool water of Lake Michigan.

    The truth is tornadoes have occurred in the heart of other major cities in just the past 10-15 years, including Atlanta, Fort Worth, Salt Lake City, Nashville, St. Louis, and Miami, as well as other large communities such as Joplin and Tuscaloosa.Tornadoes have struck within the city limits of Chicago in the past, including as recently as August 10th when an EF1 tornado tracked through the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago before moving out over Lake Michigan.

    Despite the high speed communications available, many people still rely on tornado sirens – which are designated as outdoor warning systems and not meant to be heard indoors. Also, as the population of the metro area grows and spreads further out, more people are in harm’s way. The truth is that large violent tornadoes have struck the Chicago metro area in the past, and they will again. It is only a matter of time. We now have the tools, the communications, and the partnerships with emergency management and the media to effectively warn people when the big one strikes.

    Even with all of the advances in the severe thunderstorm and tornado warning process and the abundant communication resources available today, people still need to take personal responsibility to plan, practice, monitor and act.

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    NWS Chicago Severe Weather Preparedness Page

    Click here for a multi-page PDF document.

    Plan: Develop a plan for your circumstances (home, school, ball park, business, etc)

    • Know the threats associated with your situation (consider lightning, tornado, hail, snow storm, extreme heat…)
    • Address each threat as it applies to you (consider time of day, kids at school or home alone, parents working, shift change at work…)
    • Go to the lowest floor, maximize walls, minimize windows: Safest place is in an underground shelter or basement under sturdy furniture; if not available then an interior room on the lowest floor away from windows. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. In a high rise, get into an interior room with no windows. Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Abandon mobile homes and go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.

    Practice: Run through your plan periodically, like a fire drill

    • How much time do you need to reach shelter?
    • Does everyone know their role?
    • Re-evaluate your plan

    Monitor: If there is a risk of severe weather, monitor the weather!

    • Designate a weather watcher (especially for schools, businesses). This person pays attention to the weather.
    • Check the Hazardous Weather Outlook each day; monitor for watches and warnings - If there is a threat for storms, monitor radar; “If Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” and check for warnings; if a watch is in effect and you hear thunder, check for warnings.
    • Have multiple ways to receive warnings: NOAA Weather Radio, WEA messages, www.weather.gov/chicago, local media, apps or subscriptions to an alerting service (www.weather.gov/subscribe)
    • NOAA Weather Radio is the quickest way to be alerted to a warning and can wake you up in the middle of the night

    Act: Be proactive, if threatening weather approaches or warnings are issued, activate your plan.

    • How will you let everyone know the plan is being initiated?
      While none of us like to be inconvenienced, especially by weather, dropping everything and seeking shelter is essential to surviving a tornado whenever a warning is issued. If a watch is in effect, you want to be able to get to a storm shelter within minutes.

    FAQs

    Was the Plainfield tornado an F5? ›

    Not only was this F5 tornado disastrous, it was also very unusual for several reasons: The Plainfield tornado was the first ever tornado greater than an F3 rating, since records began in 1950, to occur during the month of August in the state of Illinois.

    How many people died in the Plainfield tornado of 1990? ›

    The 1990 Plainfield tornado was a devastating tornado that occurred on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 28, 1990. The violent tornado killed 29 people and injured 353. It is the only F5/EF5 rated tornado ever recorded in August in the United States, and the only F5 tornado to strike the Chicago area.

    What was the deadliest F5 tornado? ›

    The ”single” deadliest tornado in U.S. history was the famous Tri-State Tornado of March 25, 1925. At least695 people died in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana when a F5 mile-wide monster carved a course that was apparently 219 miles through the three states.

    How many people were killed in the Plainfield tornado? ›

    On Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1990, an F5 tornado occurred in Plainfield, Ill. It's the only F5/EF5 tornado to hit the Chicago area and the only one of that magnitude to happen in the United States in August. The twister killed 29 people and injured 353.

    What is the number one severe weather killer in Illinois? ›

    occur in open fields (ballfields) and under or near trees. g Ninety-six people have been killed by lightning in Illinois in the past 40 years. g In 2001, Illinois ranked second in the United States for lightning fatalities. g Flooding is the number one severe weather killer nationwide.

    What is the biggest tornado in history? ›

    Officially, the widest tornado on record is the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado of May 31, 2013 with a width of 2.6 miles (4.2 km) at its peak.

    Has Chicago ever had an EF5 tornado? ›

    The only F5 tornado to ever strike the Chicago area was on August 28 1990. This tornado formed near Oswego and passed through Plainfield, Crest Hill, and Joliet. The tornado killed 29, injured 350, and caused $165 million in damage along a 16 mile path.

    Is Illinois considered Tornado Alley? ›

    Although the official boundaries of Tornado Alley are not clearly defined, its core extends from northern Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa along with South Dakota. Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, and western Ohio are sometimes included in Tornado Alley.

    How many F5 tornadoes have there been? ›

    Worldwide, a total of 62 tornadoes have been officially rated F5/EF5 since 1950: 59 in the United States and one each in Argentina, France and Canada.

    Can you survive an F5 tornado in a basement? ›

    EF5. Barring a storm cellar or a specially constructed, reinforced room, a basement is the place where you're likeliest to survive a direct hit from a tornado. It's a pretty good bet, but it's not failsafe.

    What is the difference between a F5 and EF5 tornado? ›

    An F5 tornado was estimated to have wind speeds of 261-318 mph. The EF scale dramatically reduced the wind speeds for the highest tornado rating with EF5 tornadoes considered to have wind speeds greater than 200 mph.

    Which state has the most tornadoes? ›

    Here are the 10 states with the highest numbers of tornadoes:
    • Texas - 155.
    • Kansas - 96.
    • Florida - 66.
    • Oklahoma - 62.
    • Nebraska - 57.
    • Illinois - 54.
    • Colorado - 53.
    • Iowa - 51.

    When was the last F5 tornado in Illinois? ›

    March 16, 1942, saw one of the most violent tornadoes on record in central Illinois. It was on that date that central Illinois' last F5 strength tornado occurred.

    How many died in Oak Lawn tornado? ›

    In all, the tornado killed 33 people, including several children at a roller skating rink, and injured 1,000.

    How many tornadoes does Plainfield Illinois have? ›

    A total of 90 historical tornado events that had recorded magnitude of 2 or above found in or near Plainfield, IL.

    What weather event killed the most humans? ›

    Across the country, heat causes more deaths each year than any other weather event, according to the National Weather Service. That dominance has also persisted over decades, with heat-related fatalities dwarfing deaths from tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and other weather hazards over the past 30 years.

    What weather causes most deaths? ›

    Over the last five years, weather-related deaths are up 35% from 2017, while the number of weather events have increased 7% and injuries have decreased 15%. In 2021, 61,105 weather events resulted in 974 deaths and 1,667 injuries. Winter weather, heat, and floods were responsible for the most deaths during 2021.

    Who is responsible for the most deaths in history? ›

    But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people—easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.

    What are the top 3 worst tornadoes? ›

    The U.S. has a history of devastating tornadoes. Here are the 5 deadliest
    • TRI-STATE TORNADO, March 18, 1925. ...
    • TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI/GAINESVILLE, GEORGIA, April 5, 6, 1936. ...
    • JOPLIN, MISSOURI, May 22, 2011. ...
    • FLINT, MICHIGAN, June 8, 1953. ...
    • SHINNSTON, WEST VIRGINIA, June 23, 1944.
    11 Dec 2021

    Can you outrun a tornado in a car? ›

    You should not try to outrun a tornado in your car. An EF-1 tornado can push a moving car off the road and an EF-2 tornado can pick a car off the ground. Do not hide under an overpass. Many people believe this to be a safe place, but winds can actually be worse under the overpass.

    Can a skyscraper survive a tornado? ›

    It is believed skyscrapers are structurally sound enough to withstand even the strongest tornadoes. However, high winds, air pressure fluctuations and flying debris will shatter their windows and may tear away exterior walls.

    Why do tornadoes not hit big cities? ›

    Tornado strikes in major metropolitan areas are only less common because the vast amount of rural landscape in the U.S. far surpasses the nation's limited urban footprint.

    What was the worst tornado in Illinois? ›

    In fact, Illinois has experienced one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history. The infamous Tri-State tornado occurred on March 18, 1925, passing through southern Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, leaving 695 dead and 2000 injured.

    What was the biggest tornado to hit Chicago? ›

    Strongest tornado to hit the Chicago area: Plainfield Tornado (Aug. 28, 1990) The EF5 tornado touched down outside Oswego about 3:15 p.m., striking Plainfield and roaring toward Joliet.

    What states have no tornadoes? ›

    What states don't have tornadoes? Alaska, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. rarely see tornadoes — they averaged zero tornadoes annually over the last 25 years, according to our analysis of NOAA data.

    What city in Illinois has the most tornadoes? ›

    Tornado Rankings, 1950 to 2021
    RankCountyTornadoes per 100 square miles
    1McLean10.194
    2Sangamon10.169
    3Champaign10.023
    4Macon9.459
    31 more rows

    Which county in Illinois has the most tornadoes? ›

    In recent Illinois history, Cook County has the highest number of confirmed tornados at 38 tornados.

    Which state has had the most EF5 tornadoes? ›

    The state of Alabama is tied for the most reported F5 tornadoes.

    What is the deadliest tornado in U.S. history? ›

    Deadliest U.S. tornadoes 2019

    The deadliest tornado of all time in the United States was the Tri-State Tornado on March 18, 1925 in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. It killed 695 people and injured over 2,000.

    How far can a tornado throw you? ›

    How far do things get carried if they are lifted and carried? The furthest distance a 1 pound object can be carried is about 100 miles. The furthest known distance a photo or piece of paper was carried was a little over 200 miles.

    How many F5 tornadoes have there been? ›

    Worldwide, a total of 62 tornadoes have been officially rated F5/EF5 since 1950: 59 in the United States and one each in Argentina, France and Canada.

    When was the last F5 tornado in Illinois? ›

    March 16, 1942, saw one of the most violent tornadoes on record in central Illinois. It was on that date that central Illinois' last F5 strength tornado occurred.

    Has Chicago ever had an EF5 tornado? ›

    The only F5 tornado to ever strike the Chicago area was on August 28 1990. This tornado formed near Oswego and passed through Plainfield, Crest Hill, and Joliet. The tornado killed 29, injured 350, and caused $165 million in damage along a 16 mile path.

    When was the biggest tornado in Illinois? ›

    This was the second largest tornado outbreak in Illinois since 1950. The biggest tornado outbreak occurred on April 19, 1996 when 41 tornadoes struck the state.
    ...
    Record Number of Tornadoes in Illinois in 2006.
    MonthTornadoes
    February1
    March21
    April60
    May17
    8 more rows

    Can you survive an F5 tornado in a basement? ›

    EF5. Barring a storm cellar or a specially constructed, reinforced room, a basement is the place where you're likeliest to survive a direct hit from a tornado. It's a pretty good bet, but it's not failsafe.

    Can you survive a F5 tornado? ›

    Emergency stores of food, water, medicine, cooking tools, and clothes are absolutely essential if you want to survive an EF5 tornado. Due to the scale of damage after a tornado, rescue can take a few days to reach you. You need to have all the essential supplies to help you survive until then.

    Which state has had the most EF5 tornadoes? ›

    The state of Alabama is tied for the most reported F5 tornadoes.

    What is the difference between F5 and EF5 tornado? ›

    An F5 tornado was estimated to have wind speeds of 261-318 mph. The EF scale dramatically reduced the wind speeds for the highest tornado rating with EF5 tornadoes considered to have wind speeds greater than 200 mph.

    What is the strongest tornado to hit Illinois? ›

    In fact, Illinois has experienced one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history. The infamous Tri-State tornado occurred on March 18, 1925, passing through southern Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, leaving 695 dead and 2000 injured.

    What was the worst tornado in Illinois history? ›

    Tri-State Tornado of 1925, also called Great Tri-State Tornado, tornado, the deadliest in U.S. history, that traveled from southeastern Missouri through southern Illinois and into southwestern Indiana on March 18, 1925.

    Why do tornadoes not hit big cities? ›

    Tornado strikes in major metropolitan areas are only less common because the vast amount of rural landscape in the U.S. far surpasses the nation's limited urban footprint.

    What was the biggest tornado to hit Chicago? ›

    Strongest tornado to hit the Chicago area: Plainfield Tornado (Aug. 28, 1990) The EF5 tornado touched down outside Oswego about 3:15 p.m., striking Plainfield and roaring toward Joliet.

    Is Illinois in Tornado Alley? ›

    Although the official boundaries of Tornado Alley are not clearly defined, its core extends from northern Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa along with South Dakota. Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, and western Ohio are sometimes included in Tornado Alley.

    Which state has the biggest tornadoes? ›

    What state has the most tornadoes? Since 1997, Texas has averaged 135 tornadoes per year — the highest of any other state in the U.S., according to our analysis of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [2] "Storm Events Database." Accessed June 09, 2022.

    What was the deadliest tornado in the United States? ›

    Deadliest U.S. tornadoes 2019

    The deadliest tornado of all time in the United States was the Tri-State Tornado on March 18, 1925 in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. It killed 695 people and injured over 2,000.

    What is the strongest tornado? ›

    The Deadliest and Fastest Tornado Ever

    It is called the Tri-State Tornado because it occurred in three different states: Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. The F5 tornado, which is also the longest ever, stretched for 219 miles across these three states. It lasted for 3.5 hours and killed 695 people.

    Videos

    1. Storm Stories - 1990 Plainfield, Illinois Tornado
    (ehatt600)
    2. Dr. John Scala looks back on the Plainfield tornado of 1990
    (ILovestorms)
    3. Plainfield Tornado: 25 Years Later
    (CBS Chicago)
    4. Plainfield Tornado Disaster of 1990 | An Unwarned Nightmare |
    (Carly Anna WX)
    5. Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center Remembers the Plainfield Tornado August 28, 1990
    (ProvenaHealth)
    6. Mayor of Plainfield discusses 30th anniversary of tornado
    (WGN News)
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