1896 St. Louis–East St. Louis tornado

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This article is about the St. Louis, Missouri tornado of 1896. For other St. Louis tornadoes, see St. Louis tornado history.
1896 St. Louis-East St. Louis tornado
Damage at Jefferson and Allen Avenues
Date of tornado outbreak: May 27–28, 1896
Duration1: Unknown
Maximum rated tornado2: F4 tornado
Tornadoes caused: Unknown
Highest winds:
Largest hail:
Damages: $3.8 billion (2009 US$)
Fatalities: 255
Areas affected: Central-Eastern United States

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita Scale

The 1896 St. Louis – East St. Louis tornado is a historic tornado event that occurred on Wednesday, May 27, 1896, as part of a major tornado outbreak across the Central United States on the 27th, continuing across the Eastern United States on the 28th.[1] One of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history, this very large, long-track, and violent tornado was the most notable of an outbreak which produced other large, long-track, violent, killer tornadoes. It caused over $10,000,000 in damage (1896).

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
14 0 0 5 5 4 0

May 27 outbreak[edit]

The first significant tornado of the day formed near Bellflower, Missouri and killed a woman. Three students died and sixteen were injured when the Dye School in Audrain County, Missouri was hit at around 6:15 pm. The same tornado killed one student and injured 19 others at the Bean Creek school a few minutes later. At 6:30, two supercell thunderstorms produced two tornadoes. One decimated farms in New Minden, Hoyleton, Richview, and Irvington, Illinois.

Twenty-seven more people died in the other Illinois tornadoes of this outbreak.

St. Louis – East St. Louis tornado[edit]

The tornado spawned from the other supercell became the third deadliest and the most costly tornado in United States history. It touched down in St. Louis, Missouri, then one of the largest and most influential cities in the country. One-hundred-and-thirty-seven people died as the tornado traversed the core of the city leaving a mile wide (1.6 km) continuous swath of destroyed homes, schools, saloons, factories, mills, churches, parks, and railroad yards. A few of the destroyed homes were swept away. Numerous trees were downed at the 36-acre Lafayette Park, and a barometer recorded a drop to 26.74 at this location. More people probably died on boats on the Mississippi River as the bodies may have gone downriver.

When the tornado crossed the river and struck the Eads Bridge, a 2x10 wooden plank was found driven through a 5/16 wrought iron plate. The tornado continued into East St. Louis, Illinois, where it was smaller, but more intense. Homes and buildings along the river were completely swept away and a quarter of the buildings there were damaged or destroyed. An additional 118 people were killed, and 35 of those deaths alone occurred at the Vandalia railroad freight yards. The confirmed death toll is 255, with some estimates above 400. More than 1,000 were injured. The tornado was later rated F4 on the Fujita scale.[2] Enough damage was done to the city that there was some question that St. Louis might not be able to host the 1896 Republican National Convention in June.

In perspective[edit]

St. Louis tornado history[edit]

It is somewhat rare for the core of a large city to be hit directly by a tornado (due to their relatively small area and the relative lack of large cities in the highest tornado threat region)—especially a large intense tornado—yet several other tornadoes have tracked through the City of St. Louis and several of these tornadoes were also very deadly and destructive. Among these events are: 1871 (9 killed), 1890 (4 killed), 1904 (3 killed, 100 injured), 1927 (79 killed, 550 injured, once the 2nd costliest in US history),[2] and 1959 (21 killed, 345 injured).[3] This makes St. Louis the worst tornado afflicted urban area in the U.S.[4] Additionally, the Greater St. Louis area is the scene of even more historically destructive and deadly tornadoes.

Other May 1896 tornadoes[edit]

In what was apparently an intense tornado outbreak sequence, other major tornado outbreaks occurred on May 15, May 17, and May 24–25, with other smaller outbreaks during the month as well. The middle to end of May was extremely active but sparse records preclude knowing much detail. Tom Grazulis has stated that the week of May 24–28 was "perhaps the most violent single week of tornado activity in US history".[5]

1896 tornado season[edit]

The 1896 tornado season has the distinction of being one of the deadliest in United States history. There were at least 40 killer tornadoes spanning from April 11 to November 26; including this one, the only one to kill more than 100 people in two separate cities.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P. (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680–1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  2. ^ a b Brooks, Harold E.; Charles A. Doswell III (February 2001). "Normalized Damage from Major Tornadoes in the United States: 1890–1999" (abstract). Weather and Forecasting (American Meteorological Society) 16 (1): 168–76. Bibcode:2001WtFor..16..168B. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2001)016<0168:NDFMTI>2.0.CO;2. 
  3. ^ Przybylinski, Ron; et al. "St. Louis City Tornadoes". St. Louis Tornado Climatology. National Weather Service. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  4. ^ Edwards, Roger; Joe Schaefer. "Downtown Tornadoes". Online Tornado FAQ. Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  5. ^ a b Grazulis, Tom; Doris Grazulis. "1896 Tornadoes". The Tornado Project. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Curzon, Julian (1997). The Great Cyclone at St. Louis and East St. Louis, May 27, 1896. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-2124-6. 

External links[edit]