The Tri-State Tornado Breaks Out: March 18, 1925

F5 Tornado Missouri
National Weather Service • This photo depicts an F5 tornado near Ruskin Heights in 1957

The Tri-State tornado, a series of tornadoes devastating a large area across three states, broke out on this date in 1925.

The Tri-State Tornado was one of the deadliest and most devastating tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. It holds records for the longest path length (219 miles), longest duration (about 3.5 hours), and fastest forward speed for a significant tornado (73 mph) ever recorded. The tornado traveled through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, hence the name “Tri-State Tornado.”

The tornado first touched down in southeastern Missouri, in Reynolds County, and quickly intensified as it moved northeastward. It caused significant damage in several Missouri towns, including Annapolis, Bollinger County, and Leadanna, before crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. In Missouri alone, the tornado resulted in 11 fatalities and numerous injuries, with homes, schools, and businesses destroyed or heavily damaged.

The impact of the Tri-State Tornado was particularly severe in Illinois, where the town of Murphysboro suffered the highest number of casualties, with over 230 people killed. The tornado continued its path of destruction through Illinois and into Indiana, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

The Tri-State Tornado remains a significant event in the history of severe weather in the United States, and its impact on Missouri and the other affected states highlighted the need for improved tornado warning systems and disaster preparedness. The tornado’s unprecedented scale and the extent of the damage it caused led to changes in building codes, emergency response protocols, and weather forecasting techniques in the years that followed.