89th Anniversary of the Infamous Tri State Tornado

The most famous and deadly tornado of all time touched down on this date in the year 1925 that crossed 3 states and killed 625 people!! Still to this day there has never been a more powerful and long lasting killer tornado. Here is some incredible information from the National Weather Service out of Paduca, KY on this prolific tornado event!


NOAA/NWS 1925 Tri-State Tornado Web Site–Tornado Track

For thousands of residents in Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Southwest Indiana, the days following March 18, 1925 must have been horrendous. Hundreds of lives had been taken and thousands were injured or left homeless. With so many fatalities, so many injuries, so much destruction, and so many lives torn apart, it was now time to clean up the mess that nature had left behind. But this was much easier said than done—for it would take months to rebuild what had been demolished in less than 4 hours. Let’s take a brief look at what happened years ago, on that dreadful day of the Great Tri-State Tornado.

It all started around 1:00 p.m. just northwest of Ellington, Missouri, where one farmer was killed. From there, the tornado raced to the northeast, killing two people and inflicting $500,000 in damage upon Annapolis and the mining town of Leadanna. Departing the Ozarks, the storm headed across the farmland of Bollinger County, injuring 32 children in two county schools. By the time the tornado reached the Mississippi River bordering Perry County, eleven Missourians had perished.

The devastation mounted in southern Illinois, as the entire town of Gorham was demolished around 2:30 p.m. There, 34 people lost their lives. During the next 40 minutes, 541 people were killed and 1,423 were seriously injured as the tornado tore a path of destruction nearly one mile wide through the towns of Murphysboro, De Soto, Hurst-Bush, and West Frankfort. In eastern Franklin County, 22 people died as the town of Parrish was virtually wiped off the map. The tornado proceeded unabated across rural farmland of Hamilton and White Counties, where the death toll reached 65.

After taking the lives of more than 600 Illinoisans, the storm surged across the Wabash River, demolishing the entire community of Griffin, Indiana. Next in line were the rural areas just northwest of Owensville, where about 85 farms were devastated. As the storm ripped across Princeton, about half the town was destroyed, with damage here estimated at $1.8 million. Fortunately, the twister dissipated about ten miles northeast of Princeton, sparing the community of Petersburg in Pike County. In the aftermath, the death toll mounted to 695 people—at least 71 of those were in Southwest Indiana. Property damage totaled $16.5 million—nearly 2/3 of that was in Murphysboro alone.

And some incredible stats on this event!!

NOAA/NWS 1925 Tri-State Tornado Web Site–Startling Statistics

On March 18, 1925, the Great Tri-State Tornado tore across Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Southwest Indiana. With its rapid movement, monstrous size, and long track, the tornado took hundreds of lives and injured thousands. By all means, the Tri-State Tornado was a rare event—an event that few people will ever experience in their lifetime. To give you some idea of this tornado’s magnitude, this section is devoted to a list of incredible statistics on the tornado.

  • 3 states affected (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana)
  • 13 counties affected, including:

Missouri: Reynolds, Iron, Madison, Bollinger, Perry

Illinois: Jackson, Williamson, Franklin, Hamilton, White

Indiana: Posey, Gibson, Pike

  • 19+ communities affected, including:

Missouri: Ellington, Redford, Leadanna, Annapolis, Cornwall, Biehle, Frohna

Illinois: Gorham, Murphysboro, De Soto, Hurst-Bush, Zeigler, West Frankfort, Eighteen, Parrish, Crossville

Indiana: Griffin, Owensville, Princeton

  • 219 mile path length
  • 3/4 mile average path width (some accounts of 1 mile wide—a record width)
  • 3 1/2 hours of continuous devastation
  • 1:01 p.m.—tornado touched down 3 miles NNW of Ellington, Missouri
  • 4:30 p.m.—tornado dissipated about 3 miles SW of Petersburg, Indiana
  • N 69° E heading maintained for 183 of the 219 miles
  • 62 mph average speed
  • 73 mph record speed between Gorham & Murphysboro
  • F5 tornado on the Fujita Scale, with winds perhaps in excess of 300 mph
  • 28.87″ lowest pressure measured on a barograph trace at the Old Ben Coal Mine in West Frankfort, Illinois
  • 695 deaths—a record for a single tornado
  • 234 deaths in Murphysboro—a record for a single community from such a disaster
  • 33 deaths at the De Soto school—a record for such a storm (only bombings and gas explosions have taken higher school tolls)
  • 2,027 injuries
  • 15,000 homes destroyed

Here are some incredible pictures from this rare event!jchs16 jchs14 jchs03 jchs02 jchs01

The tornado that struck Joplin, MO in 2011 was #7 on the list with 158 people being killed!!

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