The Tri-State Tornado is the most infamous F5 tornado in U.S. history. It occurred during a major tornado outbreak on March 18th, 1925. It's was one of the worst tornadic events in world history. It holds several tornado records to this day. There has been speculation that it might have been a series of tornadoes, instead just one tornado. A study published in 2013 found no definitive proof one way or another. To this day, there is no single meteorological factor that can explain the exceptional path length and duration of the Tri-State Tornado.
Below you’ll find Tri-State Tornado facts, historic records it still holds, and pictures related to it. While the debate will continue if this was a single tornado or a series of tornadoes, what won’t change is 695 people were killed by whatever happened on March 18th, 1925. Feel free to contact us if you come across any new research on this historic tornado.
18 Tri-State Tornado Facts
The Tri-State Tornado occurred on March 18th, 1925.
It formed around 1:01 pm CST in Missouri and dissipated around 4:38 pm CST in Indiana.
It's estimated to have been a powerful F5 tornado and to have had winds that exceeded 300 mph (482 km/h).
It traveled on average about 62 mph (100 km/h) with a peak speed of 73 mph (117 km/h).
It traveled between 151 to 235 miles (243 to 378 kilometers) from formation to dissipation.
The width of this tornado was on average about ¾th of a mile wide, with reports of it reaching 1 mile wide.
It caused damage and loss of life in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri.
It affected five counties in Missouri, and they were Bollinger, Iron, Madison, Perry and Jackson.
It affected five counties in Illinois, and they were Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, Williamson and White.
It affected three counties in Indiana, and they were Gibson, Pike and Posey.
It’s estimated to have caused 695 fatalities, 2,000+ injuries and destroyed 15,000+ homes.
613 of the fatalities occurred in Illinois.
71 of the fatalities occurred in Indiana.
11 of the fatalities occurred in Missouri.
It destroyed nine schools, across three states, killing a total of 72 students.
It’s estimated to have caused $16.5 million damage in 1925, which equates to $1.6 billion in 2018 USD.
It was on the ground for 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Some researches believe this was a series of tornadoes and not a single tornado. However, research hasn’t been able to prove it was caused by more the one tornado. Many meteorologists believe the Tri-State Tornado was a rare event, that will occur again sometime in the future.
11 Tri-State Tornado Records
Below is a list of records the 1925 Tri-State Tornado set and still holds as of 01-01-2020.
The Tri-State Tornado is considered the most intense tornado in recorded history.
It is the second deadliest tornado in world history, only surpassed by the 1989 Daultipur-Saturia Tornado.
It is the deadliest tornado in U.S. history with 695 confirmed fatalities. This is higher than the next two deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history combined.
It is the deadliest tornado in Illinois history, with 613 confirmed fatalities.
It is the deadliest tornado in Indiana history, with 71 confirmed fatalities.
It has the longest distance and damage path for a single tornado. Estimates put the path length between 151 and 235 miles (243 and 378 kilometers).
It has the fastest forward speed ever recorded for a major tornado. Estimates put the highest forward speed at 73 mph (117 km/h).
It has the longest duration for a single tornado. Estimates put the tornado’s duration at around 3 hours and 30 minutes.
When adjusted for inflation and wealth, it is one of the costliest tornadoes in world history.
It is the deadliest tornado to strike a U.S. school. A school in De Soto, Illinois had 33 student fatalities.
It was part of a larger tornado outbreak and due to the loss of life from just the Tri-State Tornado it’s considered to be part of the deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history.
Below are some shocking pictures related to the Tri-State Tornado. There is no known photograph of the actual funnel cloud. While you may find a lot of articles on this tornado with a picture of a tornado, it's not an actual picture of the tornado.
This is a diagram from the National Weather Service showing the damage and travel path of the Tri-State Tornado.
Credit: National Weather Service
This is a picture of a 2 inch piece of ply wood driven into a wooden support beam, courtesy of the Tri-State Tornado.
This is a picture of some destroyed buildings that were hit by the Tri-State Tornado, location unknown.
This is a picture of a row of homes destroyed by the Tri-State Tornado in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Credit: Jackson County Historical Society
This is another picture of a row of homes destroyed by the Tri-State Tornado in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Credit: Jackson County Historical Society
The is a picture of what's left of the Baptist Church in Murphysboro, Illinois after the Tri-State Tornado.
This is a picture from the air of Canton, Illinois after it was hit by the Tri-State Tornado.
This is a picture from the air of West Frankfort, Illinois after it was hit by the Tri-State Tornado.
This is a picture of survivors looking through rubble in De Soto, Illinois after the Tri-State Tornado.
This is a picture of some destroyed buildings that were hit by the Tri-State Tornado in Griffin, Indiana.
A picture of what's left of the Durham family home after the Tri-State Tornado. Everyone was inside was killed.
A picture of what's left of the Brown family home after the Tri-State Tornado. Everyone was inside was killed.