One of the largest single-system tornado outbreaks in United States history occurred from April 14 to 16, 2011, resulting in confirmed tornadoes across at least 14 states and severe to catastrophic destruction on all three days of the outbreak. Current estimates suggest that at least 38 people have been killed from tornadoes and an additional five people were killed as a result of straight-line winds associated with the storm system. The outbreak of severe weather and tornadoes has led to 43 deaths in the Southern United States. This is the largest number of fatalities in an outbreak in the United States since the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak on February 5–6, 2008, which killed 57 people.
In the wake of the destruction as a result of the storms and tornadoes, Alabama governor Robert J. Bentley declared a state of emergency for the entire state. North Carolina governor Bev Perdue did likewise as a result. 26 counties in Oklahoma and 14 counties in Mississippi were also placed under a state of emergency.
The outbreak was the deadliest tornadic event in the United States since the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak that occurred on February 5 and 6, 2008, when 57 people were killed across four states. In North Carolina, the outbreak was the state's largest since March 1984. Describing the outbreak, AccuWeather severe weather expert Henry Margusity said, "There has not been a tornado outbreak in history over three days with this many tornadoes spawned by a single storm system".
Tornado events of this magnitude are rare in North Carolina, with outbreaks on February 19, 1884 and March 28, 1984 the only historical precedents for outbreaks of this size, scale, and level of overall widespread damage. A March 31, 1973 outbreak produced over 25 tornadoes in the state, but all but one of those storms produced only F0 or F1 damage. The May 1989 tornado outbreak produced fewer, but more intense storms. More recently, an outbreak on May 17, 1998 produced 18 tornadoes in the state, including one F4 and one F3, but other storms in that outbreak were much weaker and short-lived.