Tuesday, March 19, 2024

99 Years Ago and Still the Deadliest Tornado in U.S. History


March 18, 1925:  The Tri-State Tornado killed nearly 700 people

Estimated later to be an EF5 with winds topping 300MPH at times, it ripped through southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana following this track.



A small tornado that touched down near Ellington, Missouri gained momentum over the course of the afternoon. In the three-and-a-half hours that followed, it ballooned to record widths and speed. At one point, observers calculated that it was a full mile wide, and it maintained an average speed of 62 miles per hour and a top speed of 73 miles per hour.

The devastation in Illinois in particular is on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. 

  • Murphysboro:  243 dead, 623 injured (total of 866) and much of the town destroyed 
  • 541 dead and 1423 seriously injured in one 40 minute stretch in Murphysboro, De Soto, Hurst-Bush, and West Frankfort 
  • Multiple communities wiped completely off the map 

695 total dead, still the deadliest tornado, with the longest track (over 200 miles on the ground), 99 years later.

A collection of sobering photographs can be found at the NWS site for the 1925 Tri-State Tornado, like these: