1920-05-02: Peggs OK

May 22, 2007
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Muskogee, OK
I realize that none of us were alive during this event but as I was doing some research on my great, great grandfather, I found out that he and my great, great grandmother lived in Peggs at the time of this tornado. The information that I began to read astounded me! Here is some of the stats that I have found....
-Prior to the tornado, Peggs OK was a town that was thriving
-May 2, 1920 was an unusually hot day in eastern OK
-The tornado occurred sometime around 8:30 pm
-It was rated an F-4
-Approx. 30%......yes 30% of the residents were killed (71 persons)
-One whole family of 11 (Stephens) were killed and buried in one mass grave
-Cinder block structures were leveled except for school which had 1 wall standing
-Days after storm were unusually cold
-Ranks #3 on the Deadliest Oklahoma Tornado's list

I was amazed that such a huge percent of the population was killed. I can't recall any other towns/storms that received such a crippling blow in regards to fatalities.
If anyone has anymore information regarding this tornado I would be very interested in hearing it.
 
May 22, 2007
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Muskogee, OK
Thanks Wes, those were very interesting and moving accounts. I had not uncovered those in my searches. The more I read about this violent tornado and the first hand accounts, the more I wonder how it was given an F-4 rating.
 
There are an amazing number of tornadoes that caused massive amounts of damage and large death tolls that have been almost completely forgotten. The Peggs, OK tornado is just one example. Assigning a Fujita/Enhanced Fujita scale rating to events that occurred so far in the past is very difficult. If you ever get your hands on a copy of Significant Tornadoes by Tom Grazulis, be sure to read his section on rating tornadoes that occurred many, many decades in the past...long before any kind of rating system based on damage was even devised. While subjective and erring on the side of caution (which I personally think is smart), I think he's got some good points regarding the effects tornadoes had on 19th and early 20th century construction techniques. If the Peggs event were to occur today, based on the written descriptions of the survivors, I wouldn't be surprised if it were given an EF-5 rating. That evening, there were also damaging tornadoes in Mayes and Rogers counties withing two hours before the Peggs event so likely there was at least one other tornadic supercell in northeastern OK that evening. There's no telling what kind of damage and fatalities might result if those storms were to occur today.
 
May 22, 2007
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Muskogee, OK
Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for bringing that to my attention Jeff.
It really wasn't the number of people that were killed that surprised me but the percentage of the population of the town of Peggs and the multiple families that were nearly wiped out. After the little research that I have done it seems this single event is responsible for many people leaving the area and Peggs has really never rebounded since.
From the first hand accounts it sounds like this was a dryline event with a powerful cold front that followed.
Thanks for the info Jeff.