1925-03-18 - Tri State Tornado - "Lost" photos found.

Discussion in '1960s and earlier' started by Scott Sims, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. Scott Sims

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    My local paper(The Southern Illinoisan) had an article this weekend commemorating the 85th anniversary of the Tri-State Tornado. A local family had a few "lost" photo's of the damage aftermath included with the article.

    The PAH-WFO has a good page summarizing the big points of the most deadly US tornado on record.
     
  2. Kate Pfeister

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    Hi neighbor (Carbondale!)

    very cool, thanks for putting them up... Going to pick up a copy tonight.
     
  3. joel ewing

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    I've been chasing storms for almost 7 months now, and have learned a lot in that short time. I don't care what anybody else says....I'm convinced that the Tri-State Tornado was just a landspout.
     
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  4. Shawn Schuman

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    I wasn't sure where to put this, but this seemed to be the most logical place. I've been working on a blog post about the Tri-State tornado and I put together this map of surface conditions at 18z, or about an hour before the tornado touched down. I see a new paper was just published from the reanalysis project, which is excellent timing, because now I can check it out and see how far off the mark I am. :D

    Anyway, here's the map:

    [​IMG]

    The warm front was lifting north at the time, and by the time the tornado struck temps ranged from low to upper 60s, with dews generally from mid-50s to low 60s. Many areas only saw a couple hours of sunshine between the stratiform rain in the early morning and the outbreak after noon. The tornado obviously formed rather close to the sfc low, probably just on the cool side of the warm front, and stayed in pretty much the same relative location until it eventually got too far out ahead and ran into cooler air in southwest Indiana. Seems to have been a pretty textbook high-shear, low-CAPE day. The rest of the outbreak was quite impressive as well, and probably substantially larger than we know.
     
  5. Elaine Spencer

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    Don't know if anyone else has seen this article I just stumbled across from the Electronic Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology:

    http://www.ejssm.org/ojs/index.php/ejssm/article/view/114/88

    The authors conclude that no single factor seems to explain why the tornado so was long-lived and so violent -- the parent low pressure area/storm system wasn't unusually intense. However, they turned up evidence that a sharp dryline was in play, that the tornado formed very close to the triple point, and that the dryline/cold front/warm front moved along at just the right pace to keep the parent supercell in a favorable tornadic environment for an extended period.
     
  6. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith Guest

    Hi Elaine, I read the entire article and parts of it twice. It is an excellent article and they did great forensic work. That said, I believe the available data -- 80 years later -- is not sufficiently fine-grained to help us understand why that tornado was so devastating and long-lived.

    It is not at all surprising to me that the tornado was near the warm front. But, I suspect the helicity was actually much higher than they were able to discern from the limited data.
     
  7. Zack Hargrove

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    My graduate adviser is actually Dr. Matthew Gilmore who has been a huge part of this project. He's been working hand in hand with Maddox on this study for a while. Its amazing how little actual research has been done on the Tri-State tornado. The simulation side of this project is actually what I'm working on for my Master's thesis. We are using the 20th century reanalysis data and have an ensemble of 56 members we are simulating using WRF-ARW. The 56 members were developed simply using surface pressure obs (the whole idea of 20CR - which has shown to have surprisingly accurate results from previous simulations). Initial results have produced a few runs with supercell(s) in the correct area and I have just started the actual analysis. We will be nesting the best storms down to around 100 meters eventually and we plan to analyze the heck out of them, including trajectory analyses. As you said, it will be tough to ever know for sure what the parameters were for that day, but we should have some interesting results from the simulation part of the project. I am hoping to get a first paper submitted by the end of this summer.
     
  8. Shawn Schuman

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    1925-03-18 The Great Tri-State Tornado

    I was surprised there wasn't already a thread for this, being perhaps the most infamous tornado of all time. I've been doing research for my blog post and I came across some pretty surprising facts. The tornado obviously destroyed and swept away thousands of homes, but it also did some other interesting things. The maximum width I could find based on damage reports was right around 1.3 miles wide. This was just northwest of Carmi, about when it destroyed the Newman School. There are reports of ground scouring (and in one case, scouring of a wheat field) in several spots along the path as well. Additionally, several victims were thrown over half a mile.

    A tornado north and east of Gallatin, TN on the same day also produced significant ground and wheat-field scouring, as well as demolishing dozens of homes and a large church, as did at least one tornado in Kentucky. Another tornado near the Indiana/Kentucky state line was said to be nearly a mile wide.

    Here's my blog post if anyone's interested:

    March 18, 1925 -- The Great Tri-State Tornado

    Edit: Ah man, I feel stupid now. I noticed the thread for this tornado about 30 seconds after posting this. Sorry guys. Could someone please move my post there? Thanks!
     
    #8 Shawn Schuman, Jun 10, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2013
  9. Elaine Spencer

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    Here is some footage -- including aerial shots from a crop duster -- that purport to show the aftermath of the Tri State Tornado (including shots of raging fires):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgCJb7ovp_M

    No indication where this film was shot but I'm guessing the Murphysboro and West Frankfort area as those were the largest towns hit.
     
  10. Shawn Schuman

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    Yeah, that was Murphysboro. At various points you can see the Brown Shoe Company, the John A. Logan School and the M&O Railroad Shop. I came across a slightly clearer version of the film a few months ago when I was doing my research, but I can't seem to find it anymore. I'd love to see the original at some point.

    As devastating as the tornado itself was, the resulting fires were just as bad. I'll never forget reading the accounts of survivors who could hear the screams coming from people trapped in the basements of their homes and at the Blue Front Hotel as the fires engulfed them. There was simply nothing anyone could do to help them. Very chilling accounts.
     
  11. Adam R Davis

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    Is it just me, or does that graphic feel a lot like March 02 2012?
     
  12. Shawn Schuman

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    Yeah, there are definitely some similarities. Both were pretty textbook events. I'd have to check, but offhand I think the sfc low was deeper and further north on 3/2/12, passing from east-central Missouri to southern Michigan during the late afternoon. I think the warm front also extended more southeast than east and, if I had to guess, I'd say the dynamics may have been more impressive than during the Tri-State event.

    If 3/18/25 were to happen today, I'd imagine the SPC outlook would look a lot like 3/2/12, just displaced maybe 200 miles to the west-southwest.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Shawn Schuman

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    I've been doing some more research on this event and I came across more details about the Sumner County, TN tornado that I thought I'd share. I've always felt that it probably deserved an F5 rating, and I think it's a pretty convincing case now. Contemporary reports from The Knoxville Journal make several extraordinary claims about the damage in the area between Keytown and Oak Grove. As I wrote in my blog article, all eight members of the Allison family were killed instantly outside of Graball, as was a neighbor who was attempting to seek shelter at the Allison home. The victims were scattered for more than a quarter-mile from the home (which was swept completely away).

    What I didn't know at the time was that the bodies were completely mangled to a degree normally only seen in the most violent of tornadoes. This is kinda graphic, so you may not want to read it if you're squeamish. The mother was decapitated and partially skinned, the two youngest daughters were "torn into sections," and most of the bodies were so badly torn apart that there was really no way to identify the remains. Surviving relatives essentially just used a mass grave.

    Significant ground scouring was reported just to the southwest of the home as well, and "every vestige of plant life" was scoured from the ground in a wheat field further to the northwest, which also suggests an extraordinarily violent tornado. In addition, the newspaper reported that even concrete and stone foundations were scoured from the ground, broken apart and scattered at several locations between Keytown and Oak Grove. I don't know whether I buy that since newspapers tend to exaggerate and/or misunderstand what happened, but it certainly caught my attention. I've heard claims of various tornadoes "scouring" foundations from the ground - 1974 Guin, AL; 1977 Smithfield, AL; 1997 Jarrell, TX; 2011 El Reno, OK and Hackleburg, AL being the most common ones - but I've yet to see photographs or other reliable evidence and I think the likelihood is quite small.
     
  14. Scott Sims

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    A bump to this thread.

    There is a scheduled Severe Weather Workshop being held at John A Logan College in Carterville IL(Near the storm track between Murphysboro and West Frankfort) commemorating the 90th anniversary of this historic storm. It's 9am to Noon on the anniversary day itself(March 18th), which is unfortunately a Wednesday for any out of state hopeful attendees. I thought I would pass it along since I noticed it on the local PAH WFO home page.


    EVENT LINK
     
  15. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I put together this graphic for an upcoming blog post about southern Illinois tornado history (my new 'home turf' since moving here in 2010). This map shows how many violent tornadoes (F4/F5) have occurred in and around the towns of Murphysboro and De Soto since 1890, including the Tri-State Tornado in 1925. There are many more tornadoes I could have included if the map area was larger. Click this image to view it in full size.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. John Farley

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    The seasonality of the F4+ tornadoes in southern IL, as shown on Dan's map, is interesting: 2 in December, 2 in March, 1 in February, 1 in September, just one in "tornado season" (May). When I lived in that area, my first chase tornado was on December 23, 1996. That seemed like an oddity at the time, and still does to some degree, but perhaps not all that unusual in that area. Certainly very strong dynamics can occur there when winter warm spells come to an end.
     
  17. Shawn Schuman

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    So, today is the 90th anniversary of the Great Tri-State tornado, perhaps the most singularly exceptional tornado event in US history. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the details, but what people may not know is that there was a small but significant outbreak of other strong/violent tornadoes across parts of Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. I have a bunch of photos and other info in the article I wrote on the event if anyone would like to learn more.
     

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