Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Tri-State Tornado Catastrophe - Ninety Years Ago This Afternoon

Ninety years ago today the most devastating tornado ever documented occurred in the Midwest. It is referred to as the "The Tri-State Tornado" because of its track across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. The newspaper photo above shows destruction in Murphysboro, Illinois. Figure below shows the track, with other details, as reported by Changnon and Semonin in Weatherwise.

Early in the 2000s several of us decided to try to do a new study of this event, even though it had occurred more than a quarter of a century earlier (eventually our group grew to the eight folks identified above - Charlie Crisp is now deceased). Results of our decade long effort were reported in:     and

Figures here illustrate some of what we were able to do in our study. Above graphic shows time continuity of the position of the surface low, tornado, dry line, squall lines, and warm front from 0700 to 1900 CST on 18 March, 1925 (these results are very much different than those reported during the years following the event).

Figure below is our new track figure that was developed using historical records, photos, newspaper accounts, reports, and books. But the most important inputs came from survivors who were willing to help the team, many of whom vividly remembered the events of that day and the aftermath. Some were able to take team members on driving tours and describe exactly where and what had been destroyed, as well as to point out features that were not impacted by the tornado. Track below is composed of hundreds of individual damage points identified and the positioned using GPS. 

Obviously, much of what our team did would not be possible if we had started much later than we did.

Bottom shows an Indiana Memorial Marker along the track.

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