May–June 1917 tornado outbreak sequence

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May–June 1917 tornado outbreak sequence
Mattoon Illinois tornado damage2.jpg
Tornado damage in Mattoon, Illinois, on May 26
Date(s) May 25–June 1, 1917
Duration 8 days
Tornadoes caused ≥ 73
Maximum rated tornado F5 (Fujita scale)
Damages > $6.88 million (1917 USD); >$127 million (2014 USD)
Casualties ≥ 383

The 1917 May—June tornado outbreak sequence was an eight-day tornado event, known as a tornado outbreak sequence, that killed at least 383 people, mostly in the Midwestern and parts of the Southeastern United States. It was the most intense and the longest continuous tornado outbreak sequence on record, with at least 73 tornadoes including 15 that were analyzed to have been violent (F4–F5) based upon reported damage.[nb 1] The deadliest tornado of the entire sequence produced a 155-mile (249 km) track across Illinois, killing 101 people and devastating the towns of Charleston and Mattoon along with small farming communities. Once believed to have traveled 290-mile (470 km) cross Illinois and into Indiana, it is now assessed to have been a tornado family of four to eight separate tornadoes.[nb 2]

Meteorological synopsis[edit]

A series of low-pressure areas affected the Central and Eastern United States between May 25 and June 1, 1917. The first of these developed by May 25 east of the Rocky Mountains in eastern Colorado. By 7:00 p.m. CST/0100 UTC that day, it intensified to 29.45 inches of mercury (997.3 mb) with temperatures rising at or above 70 °F (21.1 °C) over most of Kansas. The next day, the low-pressure system deepened further into the morning, eventually centering near Yankton, South Dakota, about 7 a.m. CST/1300 UTC. Upon weakening to about 29.55 inHg (1,000.7 mb) in the evening and centering near Des Moines, Iowa, the low was followed by another surface low which formed over the Texas Panhandle and moved northeast. This second low passed near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on the morning of May 27 and approached the St. Louis, Missouri, area in the evening. On May 30, yet another low of about 29.5 inHg (999.0 mb) by 7 p.m. CST/0100 UTC moved northeast from near Concordia, Kansas, to Des Moines.[2]

List of tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F?
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
73 9 0 1 28 20 14 1

These numbers are likely gross underestimates. Several of the long-track events listed below are likely to be tornado families, or groups of tornadoes produced by the same storm. Because of insufficient documentation, and lack of a proper storm survey by meteorologists, it is impossible to determine where one tornado ends and another begins in certain cases.[1] Additionally, the book by Grazulis which details the tornadoes of this event only documents "significant" tornadoes, that is, tornadoes which caused fatalities or F2 or greater damage on the Fujita scale. On average, almost 70% of tornadoes are not "significant".[3]

May 25 event[edit]

List of tornadoes - May 25, 1917
F#
Location
County
Coord.
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Kansas
F2 NW of Jennings Decatur 39°46′N 100°24′W / 39.77°N 100.40°W / 39.77; -100.40 (4 NW Jennings (May 25, F2)) 1830 4 miles (6.4 km) Tornado destroyed two barns.
F5 NNW of Cheney to NE of Florence Sedgwick, Harvey, Marion 37°41′N 97°49′W / 37.68°N 97.81°W / 37.68; -97.81 (Andale and Sedgwick (May 25, F5)) 2000 65 miles (105 km) 23 deaths — Destroyed 118 buildings, with many swept away. Hardest-hit areas were the southeastern part of Andale (12 deaths) and the southern edge of Sedgwick, where eight people died. Three more died in rural areas near McLain and Elbing. The tornado dissipated northeast of Florence. Average path width was 1,200 yards (0.68 mi) .
F2 S of Sylvan Grove Lincoln 38°58′N 98°23′W / 38.96°N 98.39°W / 38.96; -98.39 (S of Sylvan Grove (May 25, F2)) 2100 unknown Destroyed one rural barn.
F2 Near Fall River Elk, Greenwood, Wilson, Woodson 37°36′N 96°02′W / 37.60°N 96.03°W / 37.60; -96.03 (S Fall River (May 25, F2)) 2315 18 miles (29 km) Damaged 20 farm sites and destroyed at least five barns.
F3 NW of Howard to S of New Albany Elk, Wilson 37°31′N 96°19′W / 37.52°N 96.32°W / 37.52; -96.32 (Howard to New Albany (May 25, F3)) 2000 25 miles (40 km) 1 death - Destroyed more than 12 farms with one woman killed.
Nebraska
F2 Ogallala Keith 41°08′N 101°43′W / 41.13°N 101.72°W / 41.13; -101.72 (Ogallala (May 25, F2)) 2000 1 mile (1.6 km) Brief tornado damaged a house and a law office and moved a chicken house. Two children injured by airborne glass.
Sources: Grazulis 1993[3]

May 26 event[edit]

List of tornadoes - May 26, 1917
F#
Location
County
Coord.
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Missouri
F? Near Louisiana Pike before 1800 unknown Brief tornado. Beginning of the Charleston–Mattoon, Illinois, tornado family.[4]
Illinois
F? Near Pleasant Hill Pike ~1800 unknown Brief touchdown.[2][5] Was part of the Charleston–Mattoon tornado family.[4]
F4 E of Nebo to Embarrass Pike, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Christian, Shelby, Coles 39°27′N 91°04′W / 39.45°N 91.07°W / 39.45; -91.07 ((May 26, F4)) 1810 155 miles (249 km) 101 deathsSee section on this tornado
F3 ESE of Charleston to Livingston Coles, Clark 39°27′N 88°05′W / 39.45°N 88.09°W / 39.45; -88.09 ((May 26, F3)) 2145 25 miles (40 km) Destroyed a farm and injured 15 people near northern Marshall. Possibly F4.
F4 Near Manhattan to NE of Crown Point, IN Will, Lake (IN) 41°26′N 87°59′W / 41.43°N 87.99°W / 41.43; -87.99 ((May 26, F4)) 2245 33 miles (53 km) 3 deaths — Swept away three farm homes in the Manhattan–Monee area. Later hit near Crete and in northern Crown Point. Hit numerous farms along its path.
F? E of Chester Randolph 2300 unknown 1 death — A "tornadic" thunderstorm blew down buildings just east of Chester.[6]
F? Near Willisville Perry 2340 unknown A "funnel-shaped cloud" caused $80,000 damage in Willisville.[6]
F? Near Hallidayboro Jackson 0030 unknown Slight damage occurred in Hallidayboro.[6]
Indiana
F4 W of Blackhawk to S of Clay City Vigo, Clay 39°19′N 87°19′W / 39.31°N 87.31°W / 39.31; -87.31 ((May 26, F4)) 2200 13 miles (21 km) 2 deaths — Completely swept away a large home south of Blackhawk, killing two occupants. The funnel later turned into a downburst near Clay City.
F4 Near Clear Creek Monroe 39°07′N 86°33′W / 39.12°N 86.55°W / 39.12; -86.55 ((May 26, F4)) 2245 5 miles (8.0 km) Passed 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Bloomington, destroying 15 homes and causing near-F5 damage to some. The tornado also completely destroyed three farms.
F4 S of Crown Point to SE of Kouts Lake, Porter 41°20′N 87°22′W / 41.33°N 87.36°W / 41.33; -87.36 ((May 26, F4)) 2340 20 miles (32 km) 4 deaths — Caused destruction to 12 farms and damaged 30 others before lifting. A railroad worker died in a boxcar and 25 others were injured. Three other deaths were on farms.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, p. 752

May 27 event[edit]

List of tornadoes - May 27, 1917
F#
Location
County
Coord.
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Missouri
F2 SW of Hurley to N of Ozark Stone, Christian 36°55′N 93°31′W / 36.92°N 93.51°W / 36.92; -93.51 ((May 27, F2)) 1730 20 miles (32 km) Produced 50 injuries, mainly near Hurley and Boaz. The tornado destroyed homes on eight farms.
F1 Bruner to near Seymour Christian, Webster 37°01′N 92°59′W / 37.01°N 92.99°W / 37.01; -92.99 ((May 27, F1)) 1800 13 miles (21 km) 1 death — Death was from airborne debris.
F3 W of Ozark Christian 1815 5 miles (8.0 km) Reportedly destroyed homes to the ground.
F2 E of Ava Douglas 2015 unknown Destroyed one home near Coldspring, injuring four occupants.
F3 S of St. Mary to Willisville, IL Perry, Randolph (IL), Perry (IL) 2300 25 miles (40 km) 1 death — Destroyed six homes in Missouri with one death east of Chester, Illinois. The tornado also destroyed the business district of Willisville and unroofed or damaged 20 homes there.
F2 W of Neosho Newton 0315 5 miles (8.0 km) Destroyed three homes and five barns in the Belfast community.
Arkansas
F4 S of Blytheville to S of Como, TN Mississippi, Lauderdale (TN), Dyer (TN), Gibson (TN), Weakley (TN) 2100 75 miles (121 km) 18 deaths — Crossed into Tennessee near Tomato, Arkansas, after having caused six deaths in tenant homes. The tornado then caused seven deaths in south Dyersburg, four more south of Sharon, and a final death at Ore Springs (south of Como). Probably a tornado family that leveled many large homes in Tennessee.
F3 N of Manila to Big Lake Mississippi 2230 5 miles (8.0 km) Destroyed seven homes at Cottonwood Point before dissipating. The tornado allegedly carried livestock .25 miles (0.40 km).
Kentucky
F2 Bardwell Carlisle 2130 unknown 1 death — Killed a person and destroyed many structures as it passed through downtown Bardwell.
Tennessee
F4 N of Tiptonville to near Dublin, KY Lake, Fulton (KY), Hickman (KY), Graves (KY) 2200 50 miles (80 km) 67 deaths — Second-deadliest Kentucky tornado on record (65 deaths in-state), second only to 1890 Louisville tornado (76 deaths); second-highest single-county toll in Kentucky with 42 dead in Fulton County. 21 deaths occurred in Bondurant alone.
F3 SW of Milan to N of Indian Mound Gibson, Carroll, Henry, Benton, Stewart 2230 80 miles (130 km) 6 deaths — Long-lived tornado family destroyed homes and farms near Trezevant, Hico, and Manleyville.
F4 Near Finger to near Linden McNairy, Chester, Henderson, Perry 0000 50 miles (80 km) 5 deaths — Fourth major tornado in Tennessee this day, probably also a family of tornadoes. It leveled 20 small homes in its path.
F2 N of Brentwood to Lebanon Davidson, Wilson 0100 35 miles (56 km) 2 deaths — Fifth and final long-track tornado to affect Tennessee, hitting just south of Nashville. It damaged homes in Una, Bakertown, and Dodoburg.
Alabama
F3 S of Kansas to NE of Manchester Walker 0245 17 miles (27 km) 9 deaths — Destructive tornado killed six people in northern Carbon Hill, destroying or damaging roughly 200 homes in a three-block-wide swath. Three other deaths occurred elsewhere.
F4 SE of Sumiton to E of Morris Jefferson, Blount 0245 25 miles (40 km) 27 deaths — At least two devastating tornadoes, paths inseparable, hit Sayre (nine deaths) and Bradford (17 deaths). Flattening many small homes, the tornadoes killed an infant in Blount County before dissipating.
F2 Near Lees Chapel Blount 0345 unknown 1 death — As many as four people may have died as a tornado destroyed small homes.
F3 Windham Springs Tuscaloosa 0435 5 miles (8.0 km) 5 deaths — Destroyed most of the homes in Windham Springs, leaving only one of 25 unaffected.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 752–753

May 28 event[edit]

List of tornadoes - May 28, 1917
F#
Location
County
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Alabama
F2 SE of Tuscaloosa to near Woodstock Tuscaloosa, Bibb 0610 18 miles (29 km) 1 death — Destroyed 15 homes near Taylorville and Bibbville.
F2 Sylacauga Talladega 0645 unknown 1 death — Damaged numerous homes, businesses, and warehouses in downtown Sylacauga. The tornado was reportedly highly visible.
F3 SW of New Hope Madison, Marshall, Jackson 0700 18 miles (29 km) 6 deaths — Final deadly tornado of the outbreak in Alabama; destroyed 20 homes with six deaths spread among six different homes.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 752–753

May 30 event[edit]

List of tornadoes - May 30, 1917
F#
Location
County
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Missouri
F4 W of Manes to near Anutt Wright, Texas, Phelps, Dent 1830 55 miles (89 km) 10 deaths — Leveled farms and small homes near the Big Piney River, south of Hazleton, and northwest of Lenox. This long-track tornado passed only 5 miles (8.0 km) north of the next tornado path, listed below.
F4 W of Success to near Melzo Texas, Dent, Crawford, Washington, St. Francois, Jefferson 1900 108 miles (174 km) 10 deaths — Major tornado or tornado family damaged or destroyed homes in Licking, Ranger, Salem, Eye, and Mineral Point. Most of Mineral Point was damaged with homes leveled in the north of town.
F2 WSW of Fredericktown to near Libertyville Madison, St. Francois 2200 15 miles (24 km) Widely-photographed tornado destroyed barns south of Knob Lick.
F3 Near Munger to S of Park Hills Reynolds, Iron, St. Francois 2200 28 miles (45 km) 7 deaths — Leveled many homes in small communities near Munger, near Graniteville, south of Bismarck, and near Elvins and Flat River.
F2 S of Fredericktown Madison 2230 9 miles (14 km) 3 deaths — Destroyed numerous farm homes.
F4 NE of Ellsinore to near Drum Carter, Wayne, Bollinger 2300 50 miles (80 km) 18 deaths — Simultaneously occurred with the next event, which was 4 miles (6.4 km) to the south before merging near Arab. The northern, stronger tornado damaged Granite Bend and several small communities before destroying Dongola and south Zalma. It caused much F4 damage near Dongola and Zalma.
F3 NW of Hendrickson to ENE of Arab Carter, Butler, Wayne, Bollinger 2300 50 miles (80 km) 8 deaths — Merged with the F4 tornado near Arab. The tornado passed south of Taskee and leveled two homes south of Chaonia Landing. The path widened to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) near Arab.
F2 N of Bloomsdale to SE of Brickeys Hollow Ste. Genevieve, Randolph (IL) 2300 10 miles (16 km) Moved from Lawrenceton into Illinois. In Missouri, the tornado destroyed four homes along with a church, a parsonage, and a blacksmith shop. It caused only minor damage in Illinois.
F3 N of Ozora to NW of Chester, IL Ste. Genevieve, Randolph (IL) 0000 13 miles (21 km) 1 death — Destroyed four homes near Ozora. It then passed into Illinois near Fort Gage.
F3 W of Bloomfield to near Oran Stoddard, Scott 0000 32 miles (51 km) 6 deaths — Developed west of Acorn Ridge and destroyed frail rural structures. It caused deaths at Zeta and Ardeola.
F2 Crowder to S of Blodgett Scott 0015 10 miles (16 km) The tornado destroyed at least 12 homes.
F2 S of Winona to N of Low Wassie Shannon, Carter 0030 10 miles (16 km) Four farms were destroyed. The track may have continued to near Ellington in Reynolds County.
F3 SW of Hornersville Dunklin 0300 3 miles (4.8 km) 2 deaths — A well-constructed home was destroyed.
F2 W of Washington Franklin unknown 1 mile (1.6 km) One home and many barns destroyed.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 753–754

May 31[edit]

List of tornadoes - May 31, 1917
F#
Location
County
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Texas
F2 Muenster to Gainesville Cooke 0315 15 miles (24 km) Funnel clouds observed at Lindsay and Gainesville, but most damage downburst-caused. Four homes, many churches, and 12 barns were destroyed.
Oklahoma
F4 NW of Marietta Love 0330 8 miles (13 km) 3 deaths — Five homes leveled outside Marietta. The town itself only received downburst-related damage.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 753–754

June 1 event[edit]

List of tornadoes - June 1, 1917
F#
Location
County
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Kentucky
F2 Viola Graves 1230 5 miles (8.0 km) Most of Viola was damaged or destroyed.
F2 Downtown Lexington Fayette 1530 unknown A tornado unroofed downtown buildings and structures at Sayre School.
F2 Near Earlington Hopkins 2130 unknown A tornado destroyed barns.
Oklahoma
F2 S of Guthrie Logan 2000 unknown A tornado leveled a barn and almost destroyed a home. Four or more other tornadoes, all F1 or weaker, hit Logan County on this day.
F2 S of Sapulpa Creek 2100 unknown A tornado destroyed a small home outside south Sapulpa.
F2 Between Drumright and Oilton Creek 2100 unknown A tornado destroyed a small home along with 15 oil derricks.
F3 S of Sulphur Murray 2115 3 miles (4.8 km) 5 deaths — A tornado hit the Drake community, where one small home was completely swept away. A nearby school and another home were also destroyed.
F3 N of Seminole Seminole 2200 7 miles (11 km) Debris from destroyed homes and barns was carried miles from the farms. 12 people were injured.
F2 S of Okmulgee Okmulgee 2200 unknown A tornado destroyed buildings plus 42 oil derricks.
F4 Clarita to Coalgate Coal 2220 12 miles (19 km) 14 deaths — A tornado destroyed about 200 homes, some of them well-built, two-story structures. Losses reached $200,000. One book from Coalgate was found 40 miles (64 km) away at McAlester State Prison.
Kansas
F3 W of Coffeyville Montgomery 2305 11 miles (18 km) 3 deaths — A tornado passed just north of downtown Coffeyville, destroying many homes and 13 businesses.
F2 SW of Pomona Franklin 0000 10 miles (16 km) A tornado hit downtown Pomona, unroofing six large homes, snapping trees, and destroying a railroad depot.
F2 S of Montana to SE of McCune Labette, Cherokee 0030 10 miles (16 km) A tornado destroyed barns and unroofed a house.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 753–754

Notable tornadoes[edit]

Mattoon/Charleston, Illinois[edit]

This devastating and long-tracked event first began before noon CST near Louisiana in eastern Missouri,[4] where significant hail was reported,[6] then crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois near Pleasant Hill.[5] These two towns were probably hit by two separate, weak tornadoes which formed from the same thunderstorm, but intense tornado damage only began 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Nebo, Illinois.[7] From there, moving east at about 40 miles per hour (64 km/h),[2][5] the first violent member of the event moved into White Hall, hitting farms and injuring six people[6] before weakening and dissipating.[7] Another tornado probably developed over Modesto, 22 miles (35 km) to the east.[6] In Modesto, the tornado destroyed 30 homes and damaged 35 others, with three deaths, 16 injuries, and $120,000 damage reported. Over the next 50 miles (80 km), the tornado either weakened or lifted before touching down again at Dunkel, destroying many homes and barns,[6] and continuing into Westervelt.[7] It destroyed 10 homes and killed four people in Westervelt, but much of the damage was due to hail. Rural areas between Dunkel and Westervelt reportedly received severe damage and reported one death.[6]

After hitting Westervelt, the tornado weakened and probably lifted before reforming and re-intensifying[7] over southern Moultrie County.[6] The new tornado then passed directly through the northern half of Mattoon, causing F4 damage and "near-total destruction" in its path.[7] It destroyed 496 homes, damaged 284, and killed at least 53 people in Mattoon; in the hardest-hit areas, few walls were left standing and only small debris remained.[6] Total damage in Mattoon reached $1.2 million.[7] Between Mattoon and Charleston, a distance of 11 miles (18 km), all farms registered damage and often lost buildings. Entering Charleston, the tornado produced less severe damage than in Mattoon, perhaps due to better construction,[6] but at least 220 homes were still destroyed, 265 badly damaged,[6] 38 people killed, and $780,000 damage caused.[7] The tornado then continued beyond Charleston, causing two final deaths at Embarrass before lifting, though weather officials in 1917 believed that the tornado had continued into Indiana.[6]

At one time, this series of tornadoes was considered a single tornado.[2] Lasting seven hours and 40 minutes and covering 293-mile (472 km), it is now generally believed to have been a family of at least four, and possibly eight or more, distinct tornadoes, with either short breaks in the damage path or sections of straight-line wind damage connecting the tornado paths.[7] Debris such as mail, wallpaper, and parts of books was carried 70 miles (110 km) northeast of the parent supercell.[5] In 1917, the tornado was also believed to have produced winds up to 400 miles per hour (640 km/h),[5] though more recent studies have determined that tornadoes only produce winds up to about 300 miles per hour (480 km/h).[8]

Non-tornadic effects[edit]

Aftermath/recovery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Schneider, Russell S.; Harold E. Brooks; Joseph T. Schaefer. "Tornado Outbreak Day Sequences: Historic Events and Climatology (1875-2003)". Norman, Oklahoma: Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Frankenfield, H. C. (June 1917). "The Tornadoes and Windstorms of May 25–June 6, 1917". Monthly Weather Review (Washington, D.C.: United States Weather Bureau) 45. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1917)45<291:TTAWOM>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Grazulis, Significant, pp. 144-147
  4. ^ a b c Wilson, J. O.; S. A. Changnon, Jr. (1971). "Illinois Tornadoes". Urbana, Illinois: Illinois State Water Survey. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Carey, J. P. (August 1917). "The Central Illinois Tornado of May 26, 1917". Geographical Review (American Geographical Society) 4: 122–130. doi:10.2307/207291. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Root, Clarence J. (May 1917). "The tornadoes of May 26th and 27th, 1917". Climatological Data (United States Weather Bureau) 21: 40. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Grazulis, Significant, p. 752
  8. ^ Burgess, D. M. Magsig; J. Wurman; D. Dowell; Y. Richardson (2002). "Radar Observations of the 3 May 1999 Oklahoma City Tornado". Weather and Forecasting (17): 456–471. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2002)017<0456:rootmo>2.0.co;2. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  • — (2003). The Tornado: Nature’s Ultimate Windstorm. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3538-0. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ An outbreak is generally defined as a group of at least six tornadoes (the number sometimes varies slightly according to local climatology) with no more than a six-hour gap between individual tornadoes. An outbreak sequence, prior to (after) modern records that began in 1950, is defined as, at most, two (one) consecutive days without at least one significant (F2 or stronger) tornado.[1]
  2. ^ All damage totals are in 1917 United States dollars unless otherwise noted.

External links[edit]