March 1913 tornado outbreak sequence
|Date of tornado outbreak:||March 21–23, 1913|
|Maximum rated tornado2:||F4 tornado|
|Tornadoes caused:||≥ 19|
|Damages:||≥ $9.68 million|
|Areas affected:||Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Nebraska, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Indiana|
1Time from first tornado to last tornado
The March 1913 tornado outbreak sequence was a devastating series of tornado outbreaks that affected the northern Great Plains, the Southern United States, and sections of the upper Midwest over a two-day-long period between March 21–23, 1913. Composed of two outbreaks, the sequence first began with a tornado outbreak that commenced in Mississippi early on March 21. Several significant tornadoes occurred, one of which killed seven people in one family and another destroyed much of Lower Peach Tree, Alabama, with 27 deaths all in that town. The tornado at Lower Peach Tree is estimated to have been equivalent to a violent F4 tornado on the Fujita scale, based upon damage accounts. The tornadoes occurred between 0630–1030 UTC, or pre-dawn local time, perhaps accounting for the high number of fatalities—a common trend in tornadoes in the Dixie Alley. In all, tornadoes in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama killed 48 people, perhaps more, that day and injured at least 150 people.
On March 23, Easter Sunday, was the most violent tornado outbreak to affect the northern Great Plains on so early a date in the year—a record that still stands as of 2012.[nb 1] That day, four F4 tornadoes affected portions of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, killing at least 168 people. The deadliest tornado of the day was a potent F4 tornado that grew to 0.25 miles (440 yd) in width as it passed through northern Omaha, Nebraska, killing at least 94 people in the city proper and three in rural areas. Damage in Omaha reached at least F4, possibly even F5, intensity, though confirmation of F5 damage could not be determined from available evidence. The tornado is the 13th deadliest ever to affect the United States and the deadliest to hit the U.S. state of Nebraska. No other violent tornado would affect Omaha for another 62 years. Outside the Great Plains, the outbreak of March 23 also produced two other F4 tornadoes, one each in Missouri and Indiana, including a devastating path more than .5 mi (880 yd) through southern Terre Haute, Indiana, killing 21 people and injuring 250.
In all, the two consecutive outbreaks killed at least 241 people and caused at least 19 tornadoes, though only significant events were recorded and other, weaker tornadoes may have went undetected. The outbreak sequence also produced seven violent tornadoes, nearly half the documented total of tornadoes for the sequence. At least $9.68 million in damages were reported.[nb 2]
Easter Sunday began under cloudy skies in Omaha. Rain threatened but never fell on the city, and by noon the skies had brightened to the point where the sun began to peek through. In the afternoon the skies darkened again as a massive storm system moved into the area from western Nebraska. This storm system brought snow to the Colorado Rockies and high winds to Denver on Sunday morning.
At 5:20 p.m. the first tornado from the storm touched down just outside of Craig, Nebraska. It traveled into Iowa without causing major damage. A second tornado touched down at about 5:30 p.m. near Ithaca, claiming the first casualties of the day as it swept through Yutan. Two other rural tornadoes followed.
March 21 event
|F#||Location||County||Time (UTC)||Path length||Damage|
|F2||S of Madison to near Buckhead||Morgan||0600||8 miles (13 km)||1 death — Tornado hit five plantations and destroyed 30 buildings.|
|F2||Near Ruleville||Sunflower||0610||unknown||3 deaths — Tornado completely destroyed homes.|
|F2||Louisville to N of Macon||Winston, Noxubee||0630||30 miles (48 km)||9 deaths — Family of tornadoes destroyed or damaged roughly 25 homes near Louisville, killing two people and injuring 15. Five people in one family were killed as the tornadoes passed north of Macon. Paths of individual tornadoes could not be identified.|
|F2||Rienzi to Corinth||Prentiss, Alcorn||0630||5 miles (8.0 km)||2 deaths — Tornado killed two people as it reportedly leveled the entire town of Rienzi. Was not rated higher due to poor building standards in the rural South at that time.|
|F2||Near Florence||Lauderdale||0700||unknown||3 deaths — Tornado destroyed seven barns and 20 homes, killing three children.|
|F2||W of Decatur to near Meridianville||Morgan, Limestone, Madison||0730||40 miles (64 km)||3 deaths — Tornado destroyed numerous sharecroppers' tenant homes, other homes, and an Episcopal church. Probably a tornado family. Two of the deceased were children.|
|F2||E of Talladega to Heflin||Talladega, Clay, Cleburne||0900||35 miles (56 km)||Tornado destroyed 12 rural homes near Talladega. May have been a tornado family as two tornadoes were observed 1 mi (1.6 km) apart and the path was not continuous.|
|F4||E of Fulton to Lower Peach Tree||Clarke, Wilcox||1030||13 miles (21 km)||27 deaths — Tornado began at Scyrene and destroyed 100 homes at Lower Peach Tree, with F4 damage to about 20 well-built homes. All deaths at Lower Peach Tree. Tornado damage $100,000 with major flood damage after the tornado. Total losses from tornado and flood at least $200,000. Path .25 mi (0.40 km) wide.|
|F2||E of Camden||Wilcox||1100||12 miles (19 km)||1 death — Tornado began from the same supercell thunderstorm that produced the Lower Peach Tree tornado.|
|Sources: Grazulis 1991|
March 23 event
|F#||Location||County||Time (UTC)||Path length||Damage|
|F3||W of Craig to NW of Blencoe, IA||Burt (NE), Monona (IA)||2300||15 miles (24 km)||Tornado hit rural areas; 12 farms damaged and 11 homes destroyed in Nebraska. Also caused damage in Iowa.|
|F4||SE of Mead to W of Logan, IA||Saunders, Douglas, Washington (NE), Harrison (IA)||2330||55 miles (89 km)||22 deaths — Tornado destroyed southern side of Yutan, Nebraska, killing 17 people, half of them children. Destroyed 40 homes plus four churches in Nebraska; losses nearly $100,000 in the state. Two deaths in Iowa.|
|F3||Near Havelock, Lincoln, to E of Greenwood||Lancaster, Cass||2330||15 miles (24 km)||Tornado destroyed homes along its path as it hit Prairie Home and passed east of Greenwood. Parent thunderstorm later spawned the F4 Omaha tornado.|
|F4||Ralston to SE of Beebeetown, IA||Sarpy, Douglas (NE), Pottawattamie (IA), Harrison, Shelby||2345||40 miles (64 km)||103 deaths — See section on this tornado. Photographs indicated possible F5 damage at Omaha but may have reflected clean-up efforts, so only F4 rating was assigned.|
|F4||Bellevue to SE of Harlan, IA||Sarpy (NE), Pottawattamie (IA), Harrison, Shelby||0015||48 miles (77 km)||25 deaths — Likely tornado family hit southern section of Council Bluffs, causing 17 deaths in small homes. Other deaths at Gilliat (two), east of Weston (two), and near Neola (three), all in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. One final death southeast of Harlan. Final 15 mi (24 km) in the track probably a separate tornado. Losses $400,000.|
|F4||S of Douglas to near Macedonia, IA||Otoe, Cass (NE), Mills (IA), Pottawattamie||0015||60 miles (97 km)||18 deaths — Longest-lived, continuous tornado of the outbreak; caused F4 damage to many farms northwest of Syracuse, Nebraska, along with major damage to Otoe, then called Berlin, and 12 deaths there; losses $250,000 at Otoe. Entered Iowa after passing through Rock Bluff, Nebraska. More F4 damage to farms in Mills County, Iowa, with three deaths north of Bartlett and two more southeast of Glenwood.|
|F2||Burchard||Pawnee||0100||5 miles (8.0 km)||Tornado unroofed and destroyed a school and four homes.|
|F2||NW of Saline||Bienville||0100||6 miles (9.7 km)||1 death — Tornado hit and destroyed tenant homes along with a large estate. Another deadly tornado may have hit Bossier Parish.|
|F4||N of Prairieton to Terre Haute||Vigo, Clay||0230||22 miles (35 km)||21 deaths — Tornado destroyed or damaged 300 homes and produced F4 damage to a five-block swath in southern Terre Haute. All 21 deaths in Terre Haute with downburst damage in nearby communities. Major floods followed the tornado, causing 12 more deaths at Terre Haute and 260 in other areas. Total damage $1,000,000.|
|F4||SW of Savannah to E of Albany||Andrew, Gentry, Harrison||0230||45 miles (72 km)||2 deaths — Tornado killed two people as it passed just southeast of Flag Springs. F4-level damage north of King City and south of Darlington, with damage to 30 farms in Gentry County. Occurred at the same time as the F4 Terre Haute tornado.|
|Sources: Grazulis 1991|
|1913 Omaha Easter Sunday tornado|
|Date:||March 23, 1913|
|Time:||6:00 p.m. Central Time|
|Casualties:||103 (94 in Omaha)|
|Area affected:||Omaha, Nebraska|
The Omaha Easter Sunday tornado struck Omaha, Nebraska, at approximately 6:00 p.m. on March 23, 1913. A massive tornado-producing storm ripped its way through Nebraska, and through the thriving city of Omaha. The storm's path was reported as being 40 miles long and from 1/4- to 1/2-mile wide, and included 8 distinct tornadoes.
|All deaths were tornado-related|
At 5:45 p.m. a tornado touched down near Kramer. This tornado raced northeast and reached the outskirts of Omaha around 6:00 p.m. The Omaha tornado followed the path of Little Papillion Creek as it entered the city. It moved through the west side of town alongside the Missouri Pacific Railroad, destroying the small workers cottages in the area. The tornado was so strong that steel train cars were later found pierced by pieces of shattered lumber from the demolished homes.
By the time the tornado reached Dewey Avenue it was five blocks wide. When it reached Farnam Hill, the tornado followed a shallow valley through this upscale neighborhood. The large mansions of Farnam were no match for the winds, and many houses were torn to pieces, along with several in the Gold Coast Historic District including the Joslyn Castle, which sustained considerable damage. Buildings were found chopped in half, pipes and supports dangling into space, such as the Duchesne Academy which was nearly obliterated.
At North 24th and Lake Streets in the Near North Side neighborhood a large African American crowd was enjoying an Easter Sunday performance when the tornado flattened the building and killed more than two dozen people. Other brick structures in this small commercial district took similar hits, and more people died here than in any other part of Omaha.
A streetcar running down North 24th Street in North Omaha encountered the tornado near this area. Thanks to the quick actions of operator Ord Hensley, every passenger on the streetcar survived. Later, photographers would spot the wrecked machine and would call it the "Streetcar of Death," imagining that no one on board could have survived given the immense damage.
The F4 tornado skirted the downtown area and moved over the Missouri River into Council Bluffs. By this time it was losing intensity, and although Council Bluffs sustained damage, it escaped the destruction the tornado had brought to Omaha.
The only warning anyone had was a sudden and sharp fall in barometric pressure and temperature. Few had time to seek shelter.
In all, 103 people died, 94 of which were in Omaha, and another 400 were injured. In the aftermath of the tornado, a cold front moved into Omaha and caused further misery, as newly homeless residents struggled to escape the snowy weather.
Reportedly, 2,000 homes in Omaha alone were destroyed, with $8 million total damage from the storm, $5.5 million of which was in Omaha (financial damage estimates vary; the NOAA reports more damage than this). The same storm system that struck Nebraska also created a huge dust storm in Topeka, Kansas. On Sunday night, it spawned another deadly tornado in Terre Haute, Indiana, killing 21. On Monday and Tuesday, the storm brought heavy rains to the Midwest and upstate New York, causing widespread flooding.
Remarkably, operators from the Webster Telephone Exchange Building did not leave their stations either during or after the tornado. The building was used as an infirmary for the wounded and dying, with physicians and nurses coming from area hospitals. US Army troops from Fort Omaha set up headquarters in the building, as soldiers patrolled the area for looters and to offer assistance.
Initially, James Dahlman, the longtime mayor of Omaha, refused assistance from any outside sources, including the federal government. However, he requited after seeing the extent of the damage throughout the city. The federal government poured in assistance soon after. The massive damage caused by the tornado inspired new engineering techniques aimed at creating a tornado-proof edifice. The first such building was the First National Bank of Omaha building, built in 1916 at 1603 Farnam Street. The 14-story building was built in a "U"-shape.
- Disaster Books - Omaha Easter Sunday Tornado
- Great Dayton Flood
- List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
- List of tornadoes causing 100 or more deaths
- List of tornadoes striking downtown areas
- Timeline of North Omaha, Nebraska history
- 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.
- Robinson, "Natural Disasters", Encyclopedia, p. 584
- Condra, G. E.; G. A. Loveland (May 3 1914). "The Iowa-Nebraska Tornadoes Of Easter Sunday, 1913". Bulletin of the American Geographical Society XLVI (2): 100–107. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
- Jackman, William James (1911). History Of The American Nation, Vol 6. Chapter CII. "1913, Great Damage By Tornado And Flood". Western Press Association. pp. 1750–1756. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
- Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Vol. I, ed. Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris (New York: Anchor Books, 1989).
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- (n.d.) Omaha's Terrible Evening. Tragic Story of America's Greatest Disaster.
|25 deadliest US tornadoes|
|1||"Tri-State" (Missouri, Illinois and Indiana)||March 18, 1925||695|
|2||Natchez, Mississippi||May 6, 1840||317|
|3||St. Louis, Missouri and East St. Louis, Illinois||May 27, 1896||255|
|4||Tupelo, Mississippi||April 5, 1936||216|
|5||Gainesville, Georgia||April 6, 1936||203|
|6||Woodward, Oklahoma||April 9, 1947||181|
|7||Joplin, Missouri||May 22, 2011||158|
|8||Amite, Louisiana and Purvis, Mississippi||April 24, 1908||143|
|9||New Richmond, Wisconsin||June 12, 1899||117|
||June 8, 1953
- - -
|May 11, 1953
May 18, 1902
|13||Omaha, Nebraska||March 23, 1913||103|
|14||Mattoon, Illinois||May 26, 1917||101|
|15||Shinnston, West Virginia||June 23, 1944||100|
|16||Marshfield, Missouri||April 18, 1880||99|
- - -
|Gainesville and Holland, Georgia
Poplar Bluff, Missouri
|June 1, 1903
May 9, 1927
|19||Snyder, Oklahoma||May 10, 1905||97|
|20||Worcester, Massachusetts||June 8, 1953||94|
|21||Camanche, Iowa||June 3, 1860||92|
|22||Natchez, Mississippi||April 24, 1908||91|
|23||Starkville, Mississippi and Waco, Alabama||April 20, 1920||88|
|24||Lorain and Sandusky, Ohio||June 28, 1924||85|
|25||Udall, Kansas||May 25, 1955||80|
Sources: Storm Prediction Center: The 25 Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes, SPC Annual U.S. Killer Tornado Statistics, Tornado Project