Tornado outbreak of April 15, 1958

On Tuesday, April 15, 1958, a tornado outbreak produced severe weather over peninsular Florida and part of neighboring Georgia. A total of five tornadoes occurred, the strongest of which was rated F4 in Polk County, Florida, becoming one of only two F4 tornadoes recorded in the U.S. state of Florida, although the rating is disputed. The second F4 tornado occurred on April 4, 1966, in Polk County near Gibsonia and Galloway. In total, 36 people were injured during the 1958 outbreak, but no deaths were directly related to the tornadoes.[nb 2][nb 3][nb 4]

Tornado outbreak of April 15, 1958
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationApril 15, 1958
5 confirmed
Max. rating1F4 tornado
Duration of
tornado outbreak2
4 hours and 30 minutes
Fatalities4 non-tornadic fatalities, 36 injuries
Damage$5,657,530 (1958 USD)[nb 1]
$57.4 million (2023 USD)
Areas affectedFlorida and Georgia

1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale
2Time from first tornado to last tornado



Confirmed tornadoesEdit

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 0 2 0 2 1 0 5
Confirmed tornadoes – Tuesday, April 15, 1958[nb 5][nb 6]
F# Location County / Parish State Start
Time (UTC) Path length Max. width Summary
F4 N of Bareah Polk FL 27°40′N 82°37′W / 27.67°N 82.62°W / 27.67; -82.62 (Bareah (April 15, F4)) 17:00–? 0.1 miles (0.16 km) 300 yards (270 m) Brief but violent tornado destroyed nine small, mostly frame homes, all but one of which were poorly constructed, along with a few barns. A prefabricated home was obliterated except for its slabbed foundation and an attached toilet. A filled, 2,500-US-gallon (9,500 L) water tank was thrown for almost 1 mi (1.6 km), a refrigerator was tossed 100 yd (300 ft), and an automobile was moved for several hundred feet. Seven injuries occurred and losses totaled $25,000. Tornado researcher Thomas P. Grazulis classified the tornado as an F3 with a 5-mile-long (8.0 km) path length.[14][15][16][17][18]
F1 Mullet Key to S of Sun City Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsborough FL 27°42′N 82°30′W / 27.70°N 82.50°W / 27.70; -82.50 (Sun City (April 15, F1)) 17:20–? 0.5 miles (0.80 km) 33 yards (30 m) Tornado affected areas in and near Piney Point, Gulf City, Ruskin, and Wimauma. Winds of 83 mph (134 km/h) attended the tornado on Mullet Key, extensively damaging bathhouses and outbuildings. A barn in Ruskin was shifted 6 ft (2.0 yd) off its foundation. Metal roofing slats were torn off a tractor shed as well, and nine pumphouses were blown away. Fencing, signage, and trees were felled. Losses totaled $30.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25]
F3 NNW of St. Augustine Beach St. Johns FL 29°52′N 81°18′W / 29.87°N 81.30°W / 29.87; -81.30 (St. Augustine Beach (April 15, F3)) 17:20–? 3.6 miles (5.8 km) 73 yards (67 m) Tornado destroyed six homes in multiple subdivisions. In addition, eight to 15 homes received damage, and up to 12 other structures were destroyed or damaged. Nine people were injured and losses totaled $250,000. Grazulis classified the tornado as an F2.[26][15][24][17]
F3 Fort Pierce St. Lucie FL 27°30′N 80°34′W / 27.50°N 80.57°W / 27.50; -80.57 (Fort Pierce (April 15, F3)) 18:09–? 14.8 miles (23.8 km) 33 yards (30 m) See section on this tornado
F1 Riddleville Washington GA 32°54′N 82°40′W / 32.90°N 82.67°W / 32.90; -82.67 (Riddleville (April 15, F1)) 21:30–? 0.8 miles (1.3 km) 200 yards (180 m) Tornado leveled three homes, all of which were unoccupied, as well as a barn. It also damaged two additional homes. Losses totaled $2,500.[27][24]

Fort Pierce, FloridaEdit

Fort Pierce, Florida
F3 tornado
Max. rating1F3 tornado
Fatalities20 injuries
Damage> 0.5 million (1958 USD)
> $5.07 million (2023 USD)
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

The fourth tornado became the most destructive event of the outbreak, touching down near U.S. Route 441 west of Fort Pierce in Saint Lucie County. It moved east through the city's business district and moved offshore over the Atlantic Ocean. A total of 28 homes were demolished or received damage in the Fort Pierce area, while 200 additional buildings were destroyed or damaged as well. In addition, nine small residences were destroyed outside the city. Initial estimates placed damages near $5,000,000 (1958 USD), but these estimates were deemed too high by the General Adjustments Bureau. Final estimates placed damages near "over half million" or $0.5 million. Martial law was declared after the tornado struck the city, but it was lifted on April 16. Grapefruit was tossed from the trees, but growers salvaged the majority of the fruit from the ground. Most of the 20 injuries were inflicted by flying glass in the city's downtown business district.[28][15][29][20][17]

Non-tornadic effectsEdit

One B-47 bomber departing from MacDill Air Force Base was destroyed when it encountered the parent thunderstorm. The plane unsuccessfully attempted to fly at lower altitudes and avoid it.[17] The four crew members aboard were not found and presumed dead.[20]

Aftermath and recoveryEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ All losses are in 1958 USD unless otherwise noted.
  2. ^ An outbreak is generally defined as a group of at least six tornadoes with no more than a six-hour gap between individual tornadoes; however, the threshold varies slightly according to local climatology. On the Florida peninsula, an outbreak consists of at least four tornadoes occurring relatively synchronously—no more than four hours apart.[1][2][3][4][2]
  3. ^ The Fujita scale was devised under the aegis of scientist T. Theodore Fujita in the early 1970s. Prior to the advent of the scale in 1971, tornadoes in the United States were officially unrated.[5][6] While the Fujita scale has been superseded by the Enhanced Fujita scale in the U.S. since February 1, 2007,[7] Canada used the old scale until April 1, 2013;[8] nations elsewhere, like the United Kingdom, apply other classifications such as the TORRO scale.[9]
  4. ^ Historically, the number of tornadoes globally and in the United States was and is likely underrepresented: research by Grazulis on annual tornado activity suggests that, as of 2001, only 53% of yearly U.S. tornadoes were officially recorded. Documentation of tornadoes outside the United States was historically less exhaustive, owing to the lack of monitors in many nations and, in some cases, to internal political controls on public information.[10] Most countries only recorded tornadoes that produced severe damage or loss of life.[11] Significant low biases in U.S. tornado counts likely occurred through the early 1990s, when advanced NEXRAD was first installed and the National Weather Service began comprehensively verifying tornado occurrences.[12]
  5. ^ All dates are based on the local time zone where the tornado touched down; however, all times are in Coordinated Universal Time and dates are split at midnight CST/CDT for consistency.
  6. ^ Prior to 1994, only the average widths of tornado paths were officially listed.[13]


  1. ^ Hagemeyer 1997, p. 400.
  2. ^ a b Grazulis 2001a, p. 206.
  3. ^ Hagemeyer 1997, p. 401.
  4. ^ Hagemeyer, Bartlett C.; Spratt, Scott M. (2002). Written at Melbourne, Florida. Thirty Years After Hurricane Agnes: the Forgotten Florida Tornado Disaster (PDF). 25th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology. San Diego, California: American Meteorological Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  5. ^ Grazulis 1993, p. 141.
  6. ^ Grazulis 2001a, p. 131.
  7. ^ Edwards, Roger (March 5, 2015). "Enhanced F Scale for Tornado Damage". The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC). Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF-Scale)". Environment and Climate Change Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada. June 6, 2013. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  9. ^ "The International Tornado Intensity Scale". Tornado and Storm Research Organisation. Tornado and Storm Research Organisation. 2016. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  10. ^ Grazulis 2001a, pp. 2514.
  11. ^ Edwards, Roger (March 5, 2015). "The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC)". Storm Prediction Center: Frequently Asked Questions about Tornadoes. Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  12. ^ Cook & Schaefer 2008, p. 3135.
  13. ^ Brooks 2004, p. 310.
  14. ^ Frisbie, Loyal (April 16, 1958). Written at Bartow, Florida. "Freak Twister Wrecks 10 Polk Homes". Tampa Tribune. Vol. 64, no. 106. Tampa, Florida. p. 10. Retrieved September 13, 2022 – via  
  15. ^ a b c Grazulis 1993, p. 1014.
  16. ^ Storm Data Publication 1958, #9988331
  17. ^ a b c d Written at Fort Pierce, Florida. "Tornadoes Wreck Homes, Injure 60 In Florida". Tucson Daily Citizen. Vol. 86, no. 91. Tucson, Arizona. Associated Press. April 16, 1958. p. 1. Retrieved September 14, 2022 – via  
  18. ^ Written at Bartow, Florida. "Worse than the highway". Tampa Tribune. Vol. 64, no. 106. Tampa, Florida. April 16, 1958. p. 10. Retrieved September 13, 2022 – via  
  19. ^ Bothwell, Dick (April 16, 1958). "Tornadoes Rip State; Suncoast Damage Slight". St. Petersburg Times. Vol. 74, no. 191. St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 1A – via  
  20. ^ a b c Written at Fort Pierce, Florida. "City in Florida Is Battered by Freak Twister". Moberly Monitor-Index. Vol. 39, no. 242. Moberly, Missouri. Associated Press. April 16, 1958. p. 5 – via  
  21. ^ "Ruskin 'Wind' Was Tornado, Says Forecaster". Tampa Times. Vol. 66, no. 59. Tampa, Florida. April 16, 1958. p. 1 – via  
  22. ^ "Ruskin 'Wind' Was Tornado, Says Forecaster". Tampa Times. Vol. 66, no. 59. Tampa, Florida. April 16, 1958. p. 7 – via  
  23. ^ Storm Data Publication 1958, #9988332
  24. ^ a b c USWB 1958, p. 116.
  25. ^ "Where the tornado hit Ruskin". Tampa Times. Vol. 66, no. 59. Tampa, Florida. April 16, 1958. p. 2 – via  
  26. ^ Storm Data Publication 1958, #9988333
  27. ^ Storm Data Publication 1958, #9994304
  28. ^ Storm Data Publication 1958, #9988334
  29. ^ Sharp, Howard (April 17, 1958). "Tornado Damage Loss Estimates Drop". Fort Pierce News-Tribune. Vol. 55, no. 109. Fort Pierce, Florida. p. 1 – via