1929 Rye Cove tornado outbreak

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1929 Rye Cove, Virginia tornado outbreak
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationMay 1–2, 1929
Tornadoes confirmed14
Max rating1F3 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak230 hours, 25 minutes
Fatalities≥ 42 fatalities, ≥ 323 injuries
Areas affectedCentral and Eastern United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The 1929 Rye Cove, Virginia tornado outbreak was a deadly tornado outbreak[nb 1][nb 2] that swept from southwest to northeast along the Appalachian Mountains from Oklahoma to Maryland in early May 1929. This outbreak, which killed at least 42 people and injured at least 323,[2] is notable as one of the worst to affect the states of Maryland and Virginia. It is also one of the most intense tornado outbreaks to affect Appalachia, the F2 tornado that struck Rye Cove, Virginia, is the deadliest tornado in Virginia history[3][4] and tied for the thirteenth-deadliest to hit a school in the United States, with all 13 deaths in a school building.[5] Western Virginia was particularly hard hit, with additional tornadoes confirmed in Alleghany, Bath, Culpeper, Fauquier and Loudoun Counties. One of these tornadoes, near Culpeper, also destroyed a school, but the storm struck during the evening after classes had been dismissed for the day.

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

17 3 ? ? 9 5 0 0

May 1[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F2 Tucker to SE of Van Buren, AR LeFlore, Sequoyah, Sebastian (AR), Crawford (AR) 2015 30 miles (48 km) This tornado first touched down close to Moffett, Oklahoma, where it injured three structures.[2] Observers witnessed four funnel clouds passing over the south fringe of Fort Smith, Arkansas, causing damage to three factories and 17 homes, the tornado razed six homes along the shores of Hollis Lake before dissipating.[2]
F? Jethro Franklin 2025 12 miles (19 km) Tornado-related damage reported.[6]
F2 Rex Van Buren 2130 5 miles (8.0 km) This tornado struck the entire community of Rex, tearing off roofs and injuring every structure in its path.[2]
F3 W of Brinkley to N of Wheatley Monroe, St. Francis 0045 15 miles (24 km) 9 deaths – This deadly tornado struck several plantations, injuring or leveling 45 little homes, though some larger ones were razed as well, and other structures, along with crops, were reportedly damaged.[2]
F? Frankston Anderson 2100 unknown Tornado damage reported.[6]
Sources: Grazulis,[2] Monthly Weather Review

May 2[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F? W of Newport Cocke unknown unknown This first member of a tornado family developed 15 mi (24 km) west of Newport.[2][6]
F2 Embreeville area Washington, Unicoi 1700 unknown 2 deaths – This was another member of the tornado family listed previously. The tornado struck 15 mountaintop homes near the Washington–Unicoi county line, six of which were leveled, with two deaths.[2]
F2 NW of Gate City (Rye Cove area) Scott 1755 4 miles (6.4 km) 13 deathsSee section on this tornado
F3 S of Woodville to Flint Hill Rappahannock 2030 13 miles (21 km) 3 deaths – A tornado struck Woodville, destroying several homes and a school.[2] One student died and 15 were reported injured, some of whom were carried 200 yd (183 m) from the school.[7] The tornado then went on to Flint Hill, destroying more homes and killing two more people.[2]
F2 NE of Iron Gate Alleghany, Bath 2300 17 miles (27 km) A tornado struck several small, rural communities, including "Coronation," "Sitlington," and "Nimrod Hall." The tornado struck 13 or more farms or little homes that were injured or destroyed near the Cowpasture River.[2]
F2 Near Hamilton Loudon 0030 2 miles (3.2 km) A tornado destroyed one or more homes and numerous barns. A brick church and other structures also received damage.[2]
F3 Lagrange to near Catlett Culpeper, Fauquier 0100 18 miles (29 km) 6+ deaths – A tornado struck a small home at Lagrange, killing two people inside. The tornado killed at least four (possibly five) people in two of eight homes that were damaged or destroyed at Weaversville,[2] the tornado also ruined a large, fourteen-room brick structure.[7]
F2 Galloway area to Columbus Franklin 2000 10 miles (16 km) 2 deaths – A tornado struck and tore the roofs off a few homes as it passed between Galloway and Columbus. In Columbus, the tornado leveled a gas station and ruined the west section of a jail, killing two men in a jail cell.[2]
F2 Jacksonville area Duval 2120 2 miles (3.2 km) 1 death – A tornado struck Jacksonville Heights and Ortega on the south side of the Jacksonville, destroying seven homes, injuring 15 others, and causing one death on a farm.[2]
West Virginia
F2 Morgantown area Monongalia 2120 4 miles (6.4 km) A tornado heavily damaged the Evansdale and Riverside portions of Morgantown, ripping off the roofs of 35 homes that were demolished.[2] The tornado also hit many factories and caused minimal damage to 200 other homes. Roughly 15 severe injuries occurred.[2]
F3 NW of Adamstown to near Taneytown Frederick, Carroll 0030 33 miles (53 km) 2 deaths – A skipping tornado killed a couple in a leveled farmhouse 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Frederick. The tornado either ripped apart six other homes or tore their roofs off.[2]
F3 Near Laytonsville to Brookeville Montgomery, Howard 0230 10 miles (16 km) 4 deaths – A tornado destroyed six farmhouses, killing four people. Three of the deaths were in a home that was leveled. One other death occurred as a home had its upper part sheared off.[2]
Source: Grazulis,[2] Monthly Weather Review

Notable tornadoes[edit]

Rye Cove, Virginia[edit]

At 12:55 p.m. local time, students attending Rye Cove High School, 6 mi (9.7 km) northeast of Clinchport (also 15 mi (24 km) northwest of Gate City), were resuming class after recess when a strong thunderstorm approached from the southwest.[2][8] The storm produced a tornado, described as a dark cloud,[9] that touched down .5 mi (0.80 km) southwest of the school.[8] As it approached the school, the tornado intensified and tore the roofs off many structures. Strong winds lofted lumber for hundreds of yards, leaving pieces lodged in trees.[8] Next to the school, the tornado struck a log home dating to about the 1850s, carrying away the entire structure and dispersing furniture up to 4 mi (6.4 km) away.[9] A teacher at the school heard the wind increasing outside but did not alert her students.[8]

The tornado then struck the school, which was the fourth-largest in Scott County[9] and served 250 students, about 155 of which were in the building at the time.[8][9] The building—which contained seven rooms, was of wood frame construction, and stood on a limestone foundation—collapsed[8] and "exploded,"[9] flinging debris over a wide area. Winds moved the bodies of the dead up to 75 yards (69 m) from the foundation.[9] The tornado continued past the school, destroying a total of five farmhouses before lifting,[2] and reached a width of .25 mi (0.40 km).[9] All of the 13 deaths—12 students and one teacher—occurred at the school. Total losses reached $100,000,[2] the legacy of the tornado lived on in local folklore as A. P. Carter of the Carter Family, having visited the storm-stricken area and assisted in relief efforts, immediately recorded a song about the storm.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schneider, Russell S.; Brooks, Harold E.; Schaefer, Joseph T. "Tornado Outbreak Day Sequences: Historic Events and Climatology (1875-2003)" (PDF). Norman, Oklahoma: Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Grazulis 1993, p. 826
  3. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P.; Grazulis, Doris (26 April 2000). "VIRGINIA: Tornadoes causing three or more deaths". The Tornado Project. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  4. ^ McDaid, Jennifer Davis. "Rye Cove Cyclone". encylopediavirginia.org. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  5. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P.; Grazulis, Doris. "The Ten Worst Tornado-Related Disasters In Schools". tornadoproject.com. Danville, Vermont: The Tornado Project. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Henry 1929, p. 216
  7. ^ a b Watson, Barbara M. (7 January 2008). Sammler, Bill, ed. "Tornado History: Virginia Tornadoes". vaemergency.gov. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "The Cyclone of Rye Cove: Twister Wrecks Rye Cove School". Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Times. May 2, 1929.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Thirteen Killed When Tornado Destroys Rye Cove High School Building Thursday Afternoon". Scott County News. May 9, 1929.
  10. ^ "Deathly Lyrics: "The Cyclone of Rye Cove"". blueridgeinstitute.org. Ferrum, Virginia: Blue Ridge Institute & Museum. Retrieved 24 January 2015.



  1. ^ An outbreak is generally defined as a group of at least six tornadoes (the number sometimes varies slightly according to local climatology) with no more than a six-hour gap between individual tornadoes. An outbreak sequence, prior to (after) modern records that began in 1950, is defined as, at most, two (one) consecutive days without at least one significant (F2 or stronger) tornado.[1]
  2. ^ All damage totals are in 1929 United States dollars unless otherwise noted.