Three-hundred sixty-three tornadoes raked across the southern, midwestern, and northeastern United States between April 25 and April 28, 2011. The extraordinary event proved to be the largest and costliest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded in the United States. When the dust settled, authorities blamed the storms for the deaths of 348 people and $11 billion of damage.
About a month after the tornado outbreak, the Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5 captured this image (top) of a damage track cutting through Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Meteorologists estimate that the tornado that caused it was an EF-4, meaning it had wind speeds between 166 and 200 miles (267 and 321 kilometers) per hour. At its widest point, the damage track was about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) wide. As seen in the lower image, which was acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI), much of the vegetation had recovered five years later, but signs of the damage track were still visible.