March 1942 tornado outbreak

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March 1942 tornado outbreak
Type Tornado outbreak
Duration March 16–17, 1942
Tornadoes confirmed ≥ 25
Max rating1 F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak2 ~1 day
Damage Unknown
Casualties 153 fatalities, ≥ 1,284 injuries
Areas affected Central and Southern United States

1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The March 1942 tornado outbreak was a deadly late-winter tornado outbreak which struck a large area of the Central and Southern United States on March 16–17, 1942. The tornado outbreak killed 153 people and injured at least 1,284. At least five states reported violent, F4–F5 tornadoes, making the outbreak the fifth-most widespread in terms of violent tornadoes—only outbreaks in 1920, 1965, 1917, and 1974 featured a wider distribution of violent tornadoes. Violent tornadoes occurred from Illinois and Indiana south to Mississippi, beginning with an F4 tornado in the morning in Illinois. Intense activity spread south to the Gulf Coast and north to the Michigan–Indiana border as the day went on. Seven violent tornadoes were reported, one of which was a powerful F5 in Illinois. The March 1942 outbreak also produced 18 tornadoes that caused at least one death, one of the highest such totals for a single outbreak.[1]

Tornado table[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
 ?  ?  ? 6 12 6 1 ≥ 25

March 16 event[edit]

March 16, 1942
Time (UTC)
Path length
F4 E of Ivesdale to NE of Alvin Champaign, Vermilion 1630 52 miles (84 km) 12 deaths — A tornado moved northeast at about 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), causing F4 damage in two segments of the path. The first segment was in the SavoyMayviewSt. Joseph area where farms were reportedly swept away. After having passed south and east of Champaign, the tornado hit the west side of Alvin, damaging or destroying 25 homes. According to a history of the area[2] and a 2004 commemorative marker, six people died when the tornado arrived at 11:40 a.m. in Alvin, bringing the total death toll to 12 when combined with three deaths north of St. Joseph, one southwest of Savoy, one more near Hope, and a final east of Mayview.
F2 N of Middlegrove to near Yates City Knox, Peoria 2215 8 miles (13 km) A tornado struck 10 or more farms and completely destroyed barns and outbuildings. Four farms lost all barns and outbuildings, but only two homes were destroyed.
F5 E of Kickapoo to NE of Lacon Peoria, Marshall 2230 30 miles (48 km) 8 deaths — A tornado passed northwest of Peoria, striking near Alta before hitting the northwest side of Chillicothe. It then crossed the Illinois River near Hopewell and south of Sparland, killing two people near the river. The tornado intensified to its peak intensity as it destroyed one third of Lacon, totaling about 60 homes, several of which were entirely swept away. The tornado also caused F5 damage to a farm 3 miles (4.8 km) northeast of Lacon, killing three people. Three others died in Lacon; debris from town was carried for 25 miles (40 km).
F3 W of Lincoln Lincoln 2300 5 miles (8.0 km) 2 deaths — A tornado nearly swept away a farmhouse in which a couple died and also destroyed six barns along with two other homes. The tornado passed 3 miles (4.8 km) west and north of Lincoln.
F4 S of Berclair to N of Blue Springs Leflore, Carroll, Grenada, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha, Lafayette, Pontotoc, Union 2100 110 miles (180 km) 63 deathsSee section on this tornado
F2 SW of Grenada Grenada 2215 5 miles (8.0 km) 1 death — A tornado moved northeast through an industrial section of Grenada, missing a hospital by only 20 yards (60 ft). Most of the $300,000 in damage was confined to a plywood-box factory, though the tornado also hit 23 homes.
F3 W of Holly Springs to NE of Spring Hill Marshall, Benton 2220 15 miles (24 km) 5 deaths — A tornado destroyed about 50 homes and damaged the North Mississippi Branch Experiment Station. It continued northeast to the Mississippi–Tennessee state line before dissipating. The parent storm may have produced the later F3 tornado near Hornsby, Tennessee.
F2 S of Ofahoma to Carthage Leake 2300 16 miles (26 km) A skipping tornado destroyed small homes, barns, and a substantially-sized church.
F4 Baldwyn area (1st tornado) Lee, Prentiss 2305 5 miles (8.0 km) 5 deaths — A tornado hit the northern portion of Baldwyn, leveling several large homes and destroying 50 others. It may have been the same as or continuous with an alleged tornado that killed a person in a boxcar west of Verona, Mississippi. Having caused $200,000 in damage, the F4 tornado dissipated, only to be followed by a second, weaker tornado that struck downtown Baldwyn only 35 minutes later.
F3 Baldwyn area (2nd tornado) Lee, Prentiss 2340 5 miles (8.0 km) 11 deaths — Striking schools, homes, and businesses in downtown Baldwyn, the second of two tornadoes to hit the city caused much greater ($750,000) losses than the first. It dissipated into a downburst as it curved east-northeast across town. It may have also been part of the deadly O'Tuckalofa tornado family.
F3 WSW of Huntingdon to SW of Dover Carroll, Henry, Stewart 2230 55 miles (89 km) 5 deaths — One of two long-tracked tornadoes to cross Tennessee on this date first destroyed eight homes in the Huntingdon area. In the Mansfield area, 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Paris, four people died and a student was injured in a school. Near Stribling, now called Short Creek,[3] the tornado removed soil and swept away one home, killing a boy and injuring several people. Eight rural farms were destroyed across Stewart County.
F4 Near Bethel Springs to SW of Parsons McNairy, Henderson, Chester, Decatur 2230 about 40 miles (64 km) 15 deaths — The second of two long-tracked tornadoes in Tennessee leveled homes, farms, and rural forests, reportedly causing rural buildings to be swept away. It killed eight people almost immediately as it touched down and caused four more deaths near Reagan. Other deaths were reported east of Finger, near Enville, and near Beacon, southwest of Parsons.
F2 WNW of Bolivar Hardeman 2230 unknown A tornado unroofed buildings and injured 12 patients by airborne glass at the Western Mental Health Institute.
F3 SE of Hornsby Hardeman, McNairy 2245 8 miles (13 km) A tornado destroyed eight homes between Hornsby and Serles.
F3 S of McEwen Humphreys 0030 unknown 2 deaths — A tornado destroyed six homes near Bold Springs and along Hurricane Creek.
F3 Near Coopertown Cheatham, Robertson 0100 9 miles (14 km) 1 death — A tornado killed numerous chickens and destroyed at least 12 homes and 12 barns.
F3 Goodspring to Diana Giles 0200 20 miles (32 km) 2 deaths — A skipping tornado passed aloft over Pulaski before destroying four homes and damaging 20 in Diana.
F2 Near Shelbyville to NE of Lewisville Shelby, Rush, Henry 2300 30 miles (48 km) Damage reached $300,000 in Shelbyville, where a touchdown hit factories, homes, and one hatchery. Elsewhere, the tornado destroyed a barn but caused less damage.
F2 SW of Plymouth Marshall 0215 unknown One barn was destroyed and airborne glass caused two injuries.
F4 SE of Goshen Elkhart 0232 10 miles (16 km) 2 deaths — As it passed through southeast Goshen, an intensifying and narrowing tornado damaged or destroyed 87 homes, with F4 damage to one of them near the end of the path.
F3 SE of Greenville to E of Drakesboro Muhlenberg 2340 10 miles (16 km) 11 deaths — A tornado devastated the mining community of Browder, sweeping away 12 small homes and causing 10 deaths. Another death occurred on a farm near Drakesboro.
F4 N of Caneyville to N of Summit Grayson, Hardin 0015 30 miles (48 km) 9 deaths — A tornado caused deaths in seven different homes near Caneyville, Millwood, Leitchfield, Clarkson, and Summit. It destroyed 20 homes and swept some away.
F3 N of Bardstown Nelson 0130 15 miles (24 km) 4 deaths — Homes were destroyed from the Deatsville area to Coxs Creek.
F3 Waterloo Lauderdale 0000 1.5 miles (2.4 km) 2 deaths — A tornado destroyed nine homes as it moved through Waterloo, killing and throwing a couple 200 yards (600 ft) from their homesite.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 898–890

March 17[edit]

March 17, 1942
Time (UTC)
Path length
South Carolina
F3 Between Norway and Springfield Orangeburg 2330 10 miles (16 km) Seven people were injured as a tornado destroyed or caused damage to 15 structures.
Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 898–890

Notable tornadoes[edit]

Avalon–O'Tuckalofa–Tula, Mississippi[edit]

A long-tracked tornado family first leveled many homes in Leflore County, killing three people southeast of Itta Bena and 3 miles (4.8 km) northwest of Greenwood. Entering Carroll County, it caused five more deaths near Avalon and tossed a school bus 50 yards (150 ft), injuring the driver and 11 children. Seven more deaths were reported, three each in two leveled homes near Holcomb and Cascilla, plus a dead child in a school bus. The worst damage was near O'Tuckalofa, southeast of Water Valley, where 10 square miles (26 km2) of forest were flattened and 19 people died, including the school superintendent whose home and school were leveled and whose car was moved 300 yards (900 ft). A report card from the school was transported 100 miles (160 km). Northwest of Tula, five more deaths occurred, four of them in one home. The last reported damage was to schools in the Ecru and New Harmony areas, but one of the tornadoes in the family could have continued to Baldwyn, Mississippi, as the F3 farther below.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grazulis, Significant Tornadoes, 37.
  2. ^ Stapp et al., History Under Our Feet, 48.
  3. ^ Houston County Historical Society, History of Houston County, 90.


  • 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. 
  • The History of Houston County, Tennessee. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company. 1995. 
  • Stapp, Catherine & W. I. Bowman (1968). History Under Our Feet: The Story of Vermilion County, Illinois. Danville, Illinois: Interstate Printers and Publishers, Inc.