A mid-afternoon tornado on March 18, 1925, left a killing swath in its wake.
The tornado actually traveled through five Midwest states, but it was three Illinois towns that bore the brunt of the destruction. “Where it did the worst damage the tornado lasted less than five minutes,” reported the Ada (OK) Evening News.
The tornado came out of the Ozark Mountains in mid-afternoon. This is a bad hour for a tornado to hit because schools and businesses are packed with people. This proved to be the case with this tornado as well.
Its main path was measured at around 200 miles long, but this tornado took erratic and deadly detours before returning to the main path. When the distances traveled on the offshoots was added in, the total mileage was around 700 miles.
The Ada Evening News described the destruction in this way: “It flattened heavily constructed school and business buildings with worse results than in lighter dwellings.
“Babies in homes were special sufferers.
“Fires still raging or smouldering and millions of dollars worth of wreckage delayed counts of the larger death lists.
“The hardest hit places were three small-cities in southern Illinois, West Frankfort, Murphysboro and Carbondale.
“Nearly all the destruction was in the soft coal fields.
“Next to Illinois the worst sufferers were in Indiana and Missouri with fatal results of the tornado reaching Tennessee and Kentucky.”
In DeSoto, IL, the tornado flattened a school with 250 students in it. Only three escaped without injury and 88 were killed. In the entire town, only five buildings were left standing.
“So terrific was the force of the storm that bodies were reported carried a mile while timbers from the wrecked town of DeSoto, Illinois were found in DuQuoin 15 miles away,” reported the Ada Evening News.
In the town of Parrish, IL, only three people in a town of 500 escaped injury.
The tornado traveled through five states – Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky – and killed people in 26 towns.
The tornado left many fires in its wake, which hampered the efforts of rescuers.
Around 1000 people were killed and 3000 injured. About 10000 were left homeless by the tornado.
The Red Cross moved in following the tornado to offer help. Relief trains were sent and many people sent donations. The day after the tornado the Illinois Legislature authorized $500,000 in relief aid.
“As reports from various sections were gathered today no doubt was left that the disaster is the worst of its kind in the country’s history. The greatest death toll previously taken by a cyclone was in 1908 when five hundred were killed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.
“The terrific blow of yesterday was followed today by high winds in Pennsylvania. Michigan and Northern New York,” reported The Sheboygan (WS) Press.
Total damage was estimated at well over $10 million.