The 1925 Tri-State Tornado was the single most deadly tornado in United States history. It was a massive tornado that ripped through parts of southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois and southwestern Indiana. Today, most experts believe that the Tri-State Tornado was a five on the Fujita Scale, with winds being between 261 and 318 miles per hour. It traveled a total of 219 miles, giving it the longest recorded tornado track in the entire world.
The Tri-State Tornado started off in the Ozark Mountains near Ellington, Missouri at 1:01 p.m. on March 18, 1925. At the time, weather forecasters were not allowed to mention tornados in their warnings, nor was tornado forecasting plausible. Even in recent years, tornados are as unpredictable as ever. However, today we are at least allowed to hear speculations of a forming tornado and decide if we want to take shelter. In 1925 this wasn’t an option. So, as the tornado was forming in the Ozarks and getting ready to race across three states at average speeds of between 56 and 73 miles per hour, people were complacently going about the day.
Fourteen minutes after the Tri-State Tornado formed, it was in Annapolis, Missouri. It destroyed 90% of the town and killed several citizens. It then moved across the farmlands of southeastern Missouri and across the Mississippi River. It did the most damage in Illinois. It hit town after town, destroying homes, businesses and vehicles, uprooting trees and killing citizens. The tornado killed 243 people in Murphysboro alone. It is estimated that the tornado averaged 3/4 of a mile wide, but was up to a mile wide, at times.
After wreaking havoc in Illinois, the Tri-State Tornado moved into Indiana. It broke up twelve minutes after destroying a quarter of the town of Princeton, Indiana. In its wake were utterly devastated towns. Schools were destroyed with the children in them. Houses were moved with the families inside. Rescue workers dug through rubble to search for survivors for days, in some places. There were fires, power outages and shattered families.
The Tri-State Tornado claimed an astounding 695 lives. More than two thousand people were injured by the storm and roughly fifteen thousand homes were destroyed. Since the time of the Tri-State Tornado, the ban on using the word tornado in weather forecasting has (obviously) been lifted. Awareness of these dangerous storms has increased exponentially. Therefore, people are able to be more prepared for them. Nonetheless, it is very difficult, and, at times, impossible, to predict a tornado, so another tornado of this magnitude in the area could still be very deadly.
The Great 1925 Tri-State Tornado, the Worst in U.S. History, retrieved 1/1/10, seinp.us/publications/biot_reader.php?Biot10=191
Tri-State Tornado: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, March 1925, 1/01/10, popularmechanics.com/science/worst_case_scenarios/4219866.html?page=1