May–June 1917 tornado outbreak sequence
Tornado damage in Mattoon, Illinois, on May 26
|Duration||May 25–June 1, 1917|
|Tornadoes confirmed||≥ 73|
|Max rating1||F5 tornado|
|Duration of tornado outbreak2||8 days|
|Damage||> $6.88 million (1917 USD); >$131 million (2018 USD)|
|Total fatalities||≥ 383 fatalities, unknown injuries|
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale2Time from first tornado to last tornado
The 1917 May–June tornado outbreak sequence was an eight-day tornado event, known as a tornado outbreak sequence, that killed at least 383 people, mostly in the Midwestern and parts of the Southeastern United States. It was the most intense and the longest continuous tornado outbreak sequence on record, with at least 73 tornadoes including 15 that were analyzed to have been violent (F4–F5) based upon reported damage.[nb 1] The deadliest tornado of the entire sequence produced a 155-mile (249 km) track across Illinois, killing 101 people and devastating the towns of Charleston and Mattoon along with small farming communities. Once believed to have traveled 290-mile (470 km) cross Illinois and into Indiana, it is now assessed to have been a tornado family of four to eight separate tornadoes.[nb 2]
- 1 Meteorological synopsis
- 2 List of tornadoes
- 3 Notable tornadoes
- 4 Non-tornadic effects
- 5 Aftermath/recovery
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Notes
- 9 External links
A series of low-pressure areas affected the Central and Eastern United States between May 25 and June 1, 1917. The first of these developed by May 25 east of the Rocky Mountains in eastern Colorado. By 7:00 p.m. CST/0100 UTC that day, it intensified to 29.45 inches of mercury (997.3 mb) with temperatures rising at or above 70 °F (21.1 °C) over most of Kansas. The next day, the low-pressure system deepened further into the morning, eventually centering near Yankton, South Dakota, about 7 a.m. CST/1300 UTC. Upon weakening to about 29.55 inHg (1,000.7 mb) in the evening and centering near Des Moines, Iowa, the low was followed by another surface low which formed over the Texas Panhandle and moved northeast. This second low passed near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on the morning of May 27 and approached the St. Louis, Missouri, area in the evening. On May 30, yet another low of about 29.5 inHg (999.0 mb) by 7 p.m. CST/0100 UTC moved northeast from near Concordia, Kansas, to Des Moines.
List of tornadoes
These numbers are likely gross underestimates. Several of the long-track events listed below are likely to be tornado families, or groups of tornadoes produced by the same storm. Because of insufficient documentation, and lack of a proper storm survey by meteorologists, it is impossible to determine where one tornado ends and another begins in certain cases. Additionally, the book by Grazulis which details the tornadoes of this event only documents "significant" tornadoes, that is, tornadoes which caused fatalities or F2 or greater damage on the Fujita scale. On average, almost 70% of tornadoes are not "significant".
May 25 event
|List of tornadoes - May 25, 1917|
|F2||NW of Jennings||Decatur||1830||4 miles (6.4 km)||Tornado destroyed two barns.|
|F5||NNW of Cheney to NE of Florence||Sedgwick, Harvey, Marion||2000||65 miles (105 km)||23 deaths — Destroyed 118 buildings, with many swept away. Hardest-hit areas were the southeastern part of Andale (12 deaths) and the southern edge of Sedgwick, where eight people died. Three more died in rural areas near McLain and Elbing. The tornado dissipated northeast of Florence. Average path width was 1,200 yards (0.68 mi) .|
|F2||S of Sylvan Grove||Lincoln||2100||unknown||Destroyed one rural barn.|
|F2||Near Fall River||Elk, Greenwood, Wilson, Woodson||2315||18 miles (29 km)||Damaged 20 farm sites and destroyed at least five barns.|
|F3||NW of Howard to S of New Albany||Elk, Wilson||2000||25 miles (40 km)||1 death - Destroyed more than 12 farms with one woman killed.|
|F2||Ogallala||Keith||2000||1 mile (1.6 km)||Brief tornado damaged a house and a law office and moved a chicken house. Two children injured by airborne glass.|
|Sources: Grazulis 1993|
May 26 event
|List of tornadoes - May 26, 1917|
|F?||Near Louisiana||Pike||before 1800||unknown||Brief tornado. Beginning of the Charleston–Mattoon, Illinois, tornado family.|
|F?||Near Pleasant Hill||Pike||~1800||unknown||Brief touchdown. Was part of the Charleston–Mattoon tornado family.|
|F4||E of Nebo to Embarrass||Pike, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Christian, Shelby, Coles||1810||155 miles (249 km)||101 deaths — See section on this tornado|
|F3||ESE of Charleston to Livingston||Coles, Clark||2145||25 miles (40 km)||Destroyed a farm and injured 15 people near northern Marshall. Possibly F4.|
|F4||Near Manhattan to NE of Crown Point, IN||Will, Lake (IN)||2245||33 miles (53 km)||3 deaths — Swept away three farm homes in the Manhattan–Monee area. Later hit near Crete and in northern Crown Point. Hit numerous farms along its path.|
|F?||E of Chester||Randolph||2300||unknown||1 death — A "tornadic" thunderstorm blew down buildings just east of Chester.|
|F?||Near Willisville||Perry||2340||unknown||A "funnel-shaped cloud" caused $80,000 damage in Willisville.|
|F?||Near Hallidayboro||Jackson||0030||unknown||Slight damage occurred in Hallidayboro.|
|F4||W of Blackhawk to S of Clay City||Vigo, Clay||2200||13 miles (21 km)||2 deaths — Completely swept away a large home south of Blackhawk, killing two occupants. The funnel later turned into a downburst near Clay City.|
|F4||Near Clear Creek||Monroe||2245||5 miles (8.0 km)||Passed 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Bloomington, destroying 15 homes and causing near-F5 damage to some. The tornado also completely destroyed three farms.|
|F4||S of Crown Point to SE of Kouts||Lake, Porter||2340||20 miles (32 km)||4 deaths — Caused destruction to 12 farms and damaged 30 others before lifting. A railroad worker died in a boxcar and 25 others were injured. Three other deaths were on farms.|
|Sources: Grazulis, Significant, p. 752|
May 27 event
|List of tornadoes - May 27, 1917|
|F2||SW of Hurley to N of Ozark||Stone, Christian||1730||20 miles (32 km)||Produced 50 injuries, mainly near Hurley and Boaz. The tornado destroyed homes on eight farms.|
|F1||Bruner to near Seymour||Christian, Webster||1800||13 miles (21 km)||1 death — Death was from airborne debris.|
|F3||W of Ozark||Christian||1815||5 miles (8.0 km)||Reportedly destroyed homes to the ground.|
|F2||E of Ava||Douglas||2015||unknown||Destroyed one home near Coldspring, injuring four occupants.|
|F3||S of St. Mary to Willisville, IL||Perry, Randolph (IL), Perry (IL)||2300||25 miles (40 km)||1 death — Destroyed six homes in Missouri with one death east of Chester, Illinois. The tornado also destroyed the business district of Willisville and unroofed or damaged 20 homes there.|
|F2||W of Neosho||Newton||0315||5 miles (8.0 km)||Destroyed three homes and five barns in the Belfast community.|
|F4||S of Blytheville to S of Como, TN||Mississippi, Lauderdale (TN), Dyer (TN), Gibson (TN), Weakley (TN)||2100||75 miles (121 km)||18 deaths — Crossed into Tennessee near Tomato, Arkansas, after having caused six deaths in tenant homes. The tornado then caused seven deaths in south Dyersburg, four more south of Sharon, and a final death at Ore Springs (south of Como). Probably a tornado family that leveled many large homes in Tennessee.|
|F3||N of Manila to Big Lake||Mississippi||2230||5 miles (8.0 km)||Destroyed seven homes at Cottonwood Point before dissipating. The tornado allegedly carried livestock .25 miles (0.40 km).|
|F2||Bardwell||Carlisle||2130||unknown||1 death — Killed a person and destroyed many structures as it passed through downtown Bardwell.|
|F4||N of Tiptonville to near Dublin, KY||Lake, Fulton (KY), Hickman (KY), Graves (KY)||2200||50 miles (80 km)||67 deaths — Second-deadliest Kentucky tornado on record (65 deaths in-state), second only to 1890 Louisville tornado (76 deaths); second-highest single-county toll in Kentucky with 42 dead in Fulton County. 21 deaths occurred in Bondurant alone.|
|F3||SW of Milan to N of Indian Mound||Gibson, Carroll, Henry, Benton, Stewart||2230||80 miles (130 km)||6 deaths — Long-lived tornado family destroyed homes and farms near Trezevant, Hico, and Manleyville.|
|F4||Near Finger to near Linden||McNairy, Chester, Henderson, Perry||0000||50 miles (80 km)||5 deaths — Fourth major tornado in Tennessee this day, probably also a family of tornadoes. It leveled 20 small homes in its path.|
|F2||N of Brentwood to Lebanon||Davidson, Wilson||0100||35 miles (56 km)||2 deaths — Fifth and final long-track tornado to affect Tennessee, hitting just south of Nashville. It damaged homes in Una, Bakertown, and Dodoburg.|
|F3||S of Kansas to NE of Manchester||Walker||0245||17 miles (27 km)||9 deaths — Destructive tornado killed six people in northern Carbon Hill, destroying or damaging roughly 200 homes in a three-block-wide swath. Three other deaths occurred elsewhere.|
|F4||SE of Sumiton to E of Morris||Jefferson, Blount||0245||25 miles (40 km)||27 deaths — At least two devastating tornadoes, paths inseparable, hit Sayre (nine deaths) and Bradford (17 deaths). Flattening many small homes, the tornadoes killed an infant in Blount County before dissipating.|
|F2||Near Lees Chapel||Blount||0345||unknown||1 death — As many as four people may have died as a tornado destroyed small homes.|
|F3||Windham Springs||Tuscaloosa||0435||5 miles (8.0 km)||5 deaths — Destroyed most of the homes in Windham Springs, leaving only one of 25 unaffected.|
|Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 752–753|
May 28 event
|List of tornadoes - May 28, 1917|
|F2||SE of Tuscaloosa to near Woodstock||Tuscaloosa, Bibb||0610||18 miles (29 km)||1 death — Destroyed 15 homes near Taylorville and Bibbville.|
|F2||Sylacauga||Talladega||0645||unknown||1 death — Damaged numerous homes, businesses, and warehouses in downtown Sylacauga. The tornado was reportedly highly visible.|
|F3||SW of New Hope||Madison, Marshall, Jackson||0700||18 miles (29 km)||6 deaths — Final deadly tornado of the outbreak in Alabama; destroyed 20 homes with six deaths spread among six different homes.|
|Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 752–753|
May 30 event
|List of tornadoes - May 30, 1917|
|F4||W of Manes to near Anutt||Wright, Texas, Phelps, Dent||1830||55 miles (89 km)||10 deaths — Leveled farms and small homes near the Big Piney River, south of Hazleton, and northwest of Lenox. This long-track tornado passed only 5 miles (8.0 km) north of the next tornado path, listed below.|
|F4||W of Success to near Melzo||Texas, Dent, Crawford, Washington, St. Francois, Jefferson||1900||108 miles (174 km)||10 deaths — Major tornado or tornado family damaged or destroyed homes in Licking, Ranger, Salem, Eye, and Mineral Point. Most of Mineral Point was damaged with homes leveled in the north of town.|
|F2||WSW of Fredericktown to near Libertyville||Madison, St. Francois||2200||15 miles (24 km)||Widely photographed tornado destroyed barns south of Knob Lick.|
|F3||Near Munger to S of Park Hills||Reynolds, Iron, St. Francois||2200||28 miles (45 km)||7 deaths — Leveled many homes in small communities near Munger, near Graniteville, south of Bismarck, and near Elvins and Flat River.|
|F2||S of Fredericktown||Madison||2230||9 miles (14 km)||3 deaths — Destroyed numerous farm homes.|
|F4||NE of Ellsinore to near Drum||Carter, Wayne, Bollinger||2300||50 miles (80 km)||18 deaths — Simultaneously occurred with the next event, which was 4 miles (6.4 km) to the south before merging near Arab. The northern, stronger tornado damaged Granite Bend and several small communities before destroying Dongola and south Zalma. It caused much F4 damage near Dongola and Zalma.|
|F3||NW of Hendrickson to ENE of Arab||Carter, Butler, Wayne, Bollinger||2300||50 miles (80 km)||8 deaths — Merged with the F4 tornado near Arab. The tornado passed south of Taskee and leveled two homes south of Chaonia Landing. The path widened to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) near Arab.|
|F2||N of Bloomsdale to SE of Brickeys Hollow||Ste. Genevieve, Randolph (IL)||2300||10 miles (16 km)||Moved from Lawrenceton into Illinois. In Missouri, the tornado destroyed four homes along with a church, a parsonage, and a blacksmith shop. It caused only minor damage in Illinois.|
|F3||N of Ozora to NW of Chester, IL||Ste. Genevieve, Randolph (IL)||0000||13 miles (21 km)||1 death — Destroyed four homes near Ozora. It then passed into Illinois near Fort Gage.|
|F3||W of Bloomfield to near Oran||Stoddard, Scott||0000||32 miles (51 km)||6 deaths — Developed west of Acorn Ridge and destroyed frail rural structures. It caused deaths at Zeta and Ardeola.|
|F2||Crowder to S of Blodgett||Scott||0015||10 miles (16 km)||The tornado destroyed at least 12 homes.|
|F2||S of Winona to N of Low Wassie||Shannon, Carter||0030||10 miles (16 km)||Four farms were destroyed. The track may have continued to near Ellington in Reynolds County.|
|F3||SW of Hornersville||Dunklin||0300||3 miles (4.8 km)||2 deaths — A well-constructed home was destroyed.|
|F2||W of Washington||Franklin||unknown||1 mile (1.6 km)||One home and many barns destroyed.|
|Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 753–754|
|List of tornadoes - May 31, 1917|
|F2||Muenster to Gainesville||Cooke||0315||15 miles (24 km)||Funnel clouds observed at Lindsay and Gainesville, but most damage downburst-caused. Four homes, many churches, and 12 barns were destroyed.|
|F4||NW of Marietta||Love||0330||8 miles (13 km)||3 deaths — Five homes leveled outside Marietta. The town itself only received downburst-related damage.|
|Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 753–754|
June 1 event
|List of tornadoes - June 1, 1917|
|F2||Viola||Graves||1230||5 miles (8.0 km)||Most of Viola was damaged or destroyed.|
|F2||Downtown Lexington||Fayette||1530||unknown||A tornado unroofed downtown buildings and structures at Sayre School.|
|F2||Near Earlington||Hopkins||2130||unknown||A tornado destroyed barns.|
|F2||S of Guthrie||Logan||2000||unknown||A tornado leveled a barn and almost destroyed a home. Four or more other tornadoes, all F1 or weaker, hit Logan County on this day.|
|F2||S of Sapulpa||Creek||2100||unknown||A tornado destroyed a small home outside south Sapulpa.|
|F2||Between Drumright and Oilton||Creek||2100||unknown||A tornado destroyed a small home along with 15 oil derricks.|
|F3||S of Sulphur||Murray||2115||3 miles (4.8 km)||5 deaths — A tornado hit the Drake community, where one small home was completely swept away. A nearby school and another home were also destroyed.|
|F3||N of Seminole||Seminole||2200||7 miles (11 km)||Debris from destroyed homes and barns was carried miles from the farms. 12 people were injured.|
|F2||S of Okmulgee||Okmulgee||2200||unknown||A tornado destroyed buildings plus 42 oil derricks.|
|F4||Clarita to Coalgate||Coal||2220||12 miles (19 km)||14 deaths — A tornado destroyed about 200 homes, some of them well-built, two-story structures. Losses reached $200,000. One book from Coalgate was found 40 miles (64 km) away at McAlester State Prison.|
|F3||W of Coffeyville||Montgomery||2305||11 miles (18 km)||3 deaths — A tornado passed just north of downtown Coffeyville, destroying many homes and 13 businesses.|
|F2||SW of Pomona||Franklin||0000||10 miles (16 km)||A tornado hit downtown Pomona, unroofing six large homes, snapping trees, and destroying a railroad depot.|
|F2||S of Montana to SE of McCune||Labette, Cherokee||0030||10 miles (16 km)||A tornado destroyed barns and unroofed a house.|
|Sources: Grazulis, Significant, pp. 753–754|
This devastating and long-tracked event first began before noon CST in eastern Missouri, where significant hail was reported, then crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois near Pleasant Hill. These two towns were probably hit by two separate, weak tornadoes which formed from the same thunderstorm, but intense tornado damage only began 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Nebo, Illinois. From there, moving east at about 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), the first violent member of the event moved into White Hall, hitting farms and injuring six people before weakening and dissipating. Another tornado probably developed over Modesto, 22 miles (35 km) to the east. In Modesto, the tornado destroyed 30 homes and damaged 35 others, with three deaths, 16 injuries, and $120,000 damage reported. Over the next 50 miles (80 km), the tornado either weakened or lifted before touching down again at Dunkel, destroying many homes and barns, and continuing into Westervelt. It destroyed 10 homes and killed four people in Westervelt, but much of the damage was due to hail. Rural areas between Dunkel and Westervelt reportedly received severe damage and reported one death.
After hitting Westervelt, the tornado weakened and probably lifted before reforming and re-intensifying over southern Moultrie County. The new tornado then passed directly through the northern half of Mattoon, causing F4 damage and "near-total destruction" in its path. It destroyed 496 homes, damaged 284, and killed at least 53 people in Mattoon; in the hardest-hit areas, few walls were left standing and only small debris remained. Total damage in Mattoon reached $1.2 million. Between Mattoon and Charleston, a distance of 11 miles (18 km), all farms registered damage and often lost buildings. Entering Charleston, the tornado produced less severe damage than in Mattoon, perhaps due to better construction, but at least 220 homes were still destroyed, 265 badly damaged, 38 people killed, and $780,000 damage caused. The tornado then continued beyond Charleston, causing two final deaths at Embarrass before lifting, though weather officials in 1917 believed that the tornado had continued into Indiana.
At one time, this series of tornadoes was considered a single tornado. Lasting seven hours and 40 minutes and covering 293-mile (472 km), it is now generally believed to have been a family of at least four, and possibly eight or more, distinct tornadoes, with either short breaks in the damage path or sections of straight-line wind damage connecting the tornado paths. Debris such as mail, wallpaper, and parts of books was carried 70 miles (110 km) northeast of the parent supercell. In 1917, the tornado was also believed to have produced winds up to 400 miles per hour (640 km/h), though more recent studies have determined that tornadoes only produce winds up to about 300 miles per hour (480 km/h).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to May–June 1917 tornado outbreak sequence.|
- Schneider, Russell S.; Harold E. Brooks; Joseph T. Schaefer. "Tornado Outbreak Day Sequences: Historic Events and Climatology (1875-2003)" (PDF). Norman, Oklahoma: Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Frankenfield, H. C. (June 1917). "The Tornadoes and Windstorms of May 25–June 6, 1917" (PDF). Monthly Weather Review. Washington, D.C.: United States Weather Bureau. 45. Bibcode:1917MWRv...45..291F. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1917)45<291:TTAWOM>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
- Grazulis, Significant, pp. 144-147
- Wilson, J. O.; S. A. Changnon Jr (1971). "Illinois Tornadoes" (PDF). Urbana, Illinois: Illinois State Water Survey. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 1, 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- Carey, J. P. (August 1917). "The Central Illinois Tornado of May 26, 1917". Geographical Review. American Geographical Society. 4: 122–130. doi:10.2307/207291. JSTOR 207291.
- Root, Clarence J. (May 1917). "The tornadoes of May 26th and 27th, 1917". Climatological Data. United States Weather Bureau. 21: 40.
- Grazulis, Significant, p. 752
- Burgess, D. M. Magsig; J. Wurman; D. Dowell; Y. Richardson (2002). "Radar Observations of the 3 May 1999 Oklahoma City Tornado". Weather and Forecasting (17): 456–471. Bibcode:2002WtFor..17..456B. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2002)017<0456:rootmo>2.0.co;2.
- Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
- — (2003). The Tornado: Nature's Ultimate Windstorm. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3538-0.
- 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.
- All damage totals are in 1917 United States dollars unless otherwise noted.