1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak

The 1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak is regarded as the largest recorded tornado outbreak in European history. In the span of 5 hours and 26 minutes during the late morning and early afternoon of 23 November 1981, 104 confirmed tornadoes touched down across Wales and central, northern and eastern England.[1]

1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak
TypeTornado outbreak
Extratropical cyclone
Formed22 November 1981
Dissipated24 November 1981
Lowest pressure968 mb (28.59 inHg)
104 confirmed
Max. rating1F2 tornado
Duration of
tornado outbreak2
5 hours and 26 minutes
Casualties0 fatalities, 8 injuries
DamageHundreds of properties damaged
Areas affectedEast Midlands; East of England; North West England; South East England; Wales; West Midlands; Yorkshire and the Humber

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

Although the majority of tornadoes were very weak, measuring FU-F1 on the Fujita scale, widespread property damage was reported, mainly from the small number of tornadoes which intensified to F2 strength. By the end of the outbreak, hundreds of properties across the country had been damaged.[2]

Most of the tornadoes occurred in rural areas and small villages across central parts of the United Kingdom, although several large metropolitan areas were affected. The Liverpool area was the first to be struck by multiple tornadoes around 11:30, followed by the Manchester area around 12:00, the Hull area around 13:30 and the Birmingham area around 14:00. The strongest tornado of the outbreak, an F2 tornado, struck Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales at 10:30; the only other F2 tornado of the outbreak caused considerable damage in the village of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire around 14:00.

With 104 tornadoes, this single-day outbreak alone saw more confirmed tornadoes than any other whole year in British history – 1974 previously held the record, with 80 tornadoes across the whole year.[2] At the time of the 1981 outbreak, there had only been one other tornado outbreak in recorded history which produced more than 100 tornadoes within 24 hours, that being the 1974 Super Outbreak in the United States.[2] However, that outbreak included many more powerful tornadoes and resulted in hundreds of fatalities.