What is the Worst That Could Happen? Reexamining the 24–25 June 1967 Tornado Outbreak over Western Europe

Bogdan Antonescu, Jonathan G. Fairman Jr., David M. Schultz
  • Weather Climate and Society, April 2018, American Meteorological Society
  • DOI: 10.1175/wcas-d-17-0076.1

What is the Worst Tornado Outbreak That Could Happen in Western Europe?

What is it about?

On 24–25 June 1967, a tornado outbreak of seven strong and violent tornadoes happened over France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, making it the largest recorded tornado outbreak in western Europe. Fifteen deaths and 232 injuries occurred; 960 houses were damaged or destroyed. We ask the question, ‘‘What would happen if an outbreak similar to the 1967 one occurred 50 years later in 2017 over France, Belgium, and the Netherlands?’’ So, we take the paths of the seven tornadoes from June 1967 and place them over the modern landscape to explore what might happen. Our calculations indicate that nearly 25,000 buildings would potentially be affected by the tornadoes. Judging by what happens in past tornado outbreaks, we expect somewhere between 255–2580 injuries and 17–172 fatalities. What if the tracks of the 1967 tornadoes stayed the same length, shape, and intensity, but they were moved slightly north, south, east or west? So, we moved the tracks in 120 different ways over a grid of about 120 km by 120 km to see what damage they would do on the present landscape. The worst-case scenario estimates are 146,222 buildings impacted, 2550–25,440 injuries, and 170–1696 fatalities.

Why is it important?

This work is important for several reasons. 1. This research shows the potential for a large-scale tornado outbreak in western Europe. Perhaps we have been lucky so far not to have seen such a large-impact event, but hundreds of fatalities are possible given a certain set of meteorological events coupled with their impact on the cities of western Europe. 2. European governments need to consider the possibility of a large-scale, multi-country, tornado outbreak in their current disaster management policies and mitigation strategies. 3. Presently, most European forecasting agencies do not produce warnings for tornadoes, as are produced in the United States. Thus, this research suggests the potential importance of advance warnings of the potential for tornadoes.


Professor David M. Schultz (Author)
University of Manchester

We were proud to have this work funded by the Risk Prediction Initiative of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor David M. Schultz and Bogdan Antonescu